Determining when soils are fit.
There is a quick and easy test to give you a good idea if your soil is ready for tillage or planting to give you a good seedbed. Dig down 2-4” into the soil and grab a handful and squeeze it. Soils that is too wet for tillage or planting will:
- Feel tacky
- Be able to make a ball or the soil will stick together
- Make a ribbon (squeeze between your thumb and forefinger)
Soils in proper condition for seedbed preparation would crumble between your fingers. Soils that crumble easily are ready for tillage and planting operations, creating favorable tilth for early growth while minimizing soil compaction.
Soil moisture conditions can change between the time the seedbed is prepared and planting begins in the field. If soils become wet, be patient and allow them to dry out. Try to work fields as close to planting as possible. Planting into wetter soils or working soils too wet will cause sidewall compaction from the disk openers. This type of compaction is frequently the cause of uneven emergence. Compacted soils create a compaction barrier that root systems will have difficulty penetrating. This can reduce moisture and nutrient uptake and yield potential. This also called sidewall smear.
There are 5 things to consider for seedbed preparation to optimize yield potential
- Evaluate every field for soil moisture conditions. Use the simple “ribbon” test to determine soil conditions and fitness for seedbed preparation.
- Reduce compaction with proper tire inflation and counter weights for spring tillage and planting.
- Under dry conditions the use of a packer/roller may help improve seed-to-soil contact and germination.
- Select hybrids with above average stress emergence scores for earliest planting dates.
- Wait until soils reach a minimum of 50 degrees at the 2 inch depth prior to starting planting.
It has been documented that yield can be affected by 18% or more by planting into soils that are not ready. Yield loss of:
- 5-9% for non-uniform emergence. Poor emergence for cool wet soils.
- 2-5% for not planting in an optimum window. Too early or late.
- 1-2% for not achieving correct target populations.
- 1-2% improper plant spacing. Skips and doubles
Let the soil tell you when to plant NOT the calander!