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Cropland Planting Resources
Failure to manage plant resources is a factor that leads to the misuse of other natural resources. There are many keys to growing plants in cropland fields. We have made a collection of many of the ingredients and other facts that can lead to success. Keep in mind ecological, social, economic, and availability of products and services when considering these ingredients. Be sure to talk with other producers or agricultural specialists for local situations.
- Join a crop club.
- Attend crop field days.
- Talk to other producers.
- Follow farm blog writers.
- Talk with agricultural consultants.
- Subscribe to one or more farm magazines.
- Contact your local extension service office.
- Talk with your local conservation district or Natural Resources Conservation Service office. Shawnee County Conservation District and NRCS Topeka Field Office.
Soil test on a regular basis.
- Include legumes in your rotation. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil, reducing the need for applied nitrogen.
- Feed the crop, not the weeds. Band most of the nutrients 2" over and 2" down from seed.
- When you apply a pop-up band of fertilizer in the seed row, use a 1:1 N/P ratio. Do not exceed total maximum recommended in the seed row application rates or seedling damage will occur.
- Build fertility at the 6" level in the soil, particularly P&K.
- Do not broadcast P&K. Too much gets tied up by the soil and is not available for plant use.
- When fertilizer is broadcast it increases the chance that it is washed off the field during rain storms. With increased water monitoring this can be tracked back to YOUR field and You can be held liable.
- The root mass contacts only 1% of the soil. Why fertilize all of the soil? Feed your crop, not the weeds.
- When you broadcast fertilizer you feed the weed as well as the crops.
- Once a field's general soil test level of P&K are at a medium to high level, P&K application rates may be reduced up to 20% if banded.
- One ton of lime is required to change soil acid level 0.2 to 0.3.
- If general soil P&K levels drop, it requires 9# of P or 4# of K to raise test levels 1#.
- 1.1# to 1.3# applied nitrogen is required per bushel of corn, maybe 1# in a corn/bean rotation.
- Animal manures can be a good source of nutrients. Work with your local agricultural specialist in determining nutrient content and recommended application rates.
- If manure is spread on no-till ground, it must be spread evenly with no lumps. Generally, with the manure being left on top, little nitrogen is left. The greatest value comes from the organic matter and the P&K in the manure.
- Once corn is 12" to 18" tall, the plant has determined the nutrients available to it. Ear size is then set. Additional fertilizer added later will have little affect on yield in most cases. the point is to work with a current soil test. Be sure nutrient levels are adequate for the planned crop and yield level when it is planted. Split application of nitrogen is common in many regions. Be sure this is done on a timely basis.
- Top 9 Best Management Practices for Nutrient Management.
Crop / Crop Varieties
- Use herbicide resistant varieties.
- Plant population should be keyed to the variety.
- In a field not protected with terraces, starting with a wheat crop may be the best way to begin a no-till system of planting. Rainfall events are of less intensity in the fall. A wheat crop produces abundant residue. Soybeans can be double-cropped into the stubble. The land is not left susceptible to erosion.
- Spread straw and chaff an entire combine width to reduce weed control problems.
- Crop residue has a value of $30 to $150 per acre, (nutrients, forage, organic matter.)
- Row cleaners clear a path so the planter can function as in a conventional tillage system. Residue is brushed aside, planting mechanism runs on a uniform surface, soil in seed zone warms more quickly. (Caution: Set the cleaners just to clear the residue. Setting too deep can expose damp soil that can build up on planter parts.)
Herbicides / Weed Control
- ***Always read and follow label directions***
- Crop rotation is very important.
- Example: Corn/Beans, Milo/Beans, 2 Year Corn or Milo/Beans/Wheat
- Breaks weed, insect, and disease cycles.
- Reduces or eliminates the need for herbicides in some years.
- Make sure the target weed is within the size range of control for the product.
- Rotate herbicide groups.
- Keep field edges clean.
- Know your weeds - scout your fields often and keep field records.
- Plant narrower rows.
- Spray your own crops.
- Be sure to give contact herbicides time to work, (12-18 hours), before planting the field.
- Be ready to spray problem spots and only spray the problem areas, not the entire field.
- Early pre-plant applications reduce herbicide rates and spreads out the workload.
- Use flat fan nozzles to reduce drift hazard.
- Use larger orifice size, not more pressure, to increase spray volume.
- Water Volume is critical. More is not always best.
- When using low water volumes, a twin jet tip provides better leaf coverage.
- The faster you travel, the larger the orifice needed.
- Flat fan tips: Instead of using 20" tip spacing and 80 degree nozzles, try 30" spacing and 110 degree nozzles. That will be more forgiving and you'll have less test strips.
- You want 100% overlap spray coverage.
- It's better to have spray boom too high than too low.
- Spray boom will be about 34" to 36" above target (30" tip spacing.)
- Twin jet nozzles used for contact herbicide application, if set properly, spray both the front and the back of weeds.
- Except for the individual strainer for each nozzle, use only one main strainer past the metering system to prevent misreads, not a strainer for each boom.
- Double plumb spray boom with a valve so you can go from flood tips to twin jet without having to change tips since these two types of nozzles normally are on two different spacings.
- If you are using foam markers and having trouble with the foam pieces falling through the foliage so you cannot see your spacing, try taking a rubber glove with fingers cut out and attach it to the foamer.
- Use 2# anti-drip caps instead of 10# to stop on/off problems.
Planters / Planting
- A planter must: have good depth control, provide good see/soil contact, not slick/compact seed furrow, and cut/handle residue.
- Do not plant faster than 4 1/2 mph or seed placement will suffer.
- Use seed firmer/placement attachments to improve seed placement.
- The yield penalty for planting late is greater than the penalty for planting early.
- Corn is often planted too thin, soybeans too thick. Follow recommendations for each variety.
- Residue row cleaners should only be used to move the residue and not till the soil.
- Be careful using residue row cleaners while planting up and down a hill as erosion can be quite severe.
- One of the problems with corn after corn in no-till is cold, wet soil conditions. A slight delay in planting and/or the use of row cleaners will help. Grain sorghum and soybeans planted later will have warmer, drier conditions.
- Corn needs a planting depth of 1 1/2" for proper root development.
- Spoked wheel closure may help break seed furrow sidewall compaction.
- Give yourself planter options on the go. The planter could have coulters, row cleaners, spoked wheel closures, all so you can raise and lower them as needed.
- On a John Deere planter, keep the disk blades touching all of the time.
- For some planters, drills, and sprayers, adding fluid to the drive wheel insures better traction with the ground.