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Get set for high-speed planting before you do it

Tom J. Bechman monitor that displays singulation percentage when planting corn
FOCUS ON SINGULATION: Fine-tuning planting corn includes using a monitor that displays singulation percentage. This helps you minimize skips and doubles.
Here are last-minute tips that could result in better stands and more yield.

You’ve read about high-speed planting and realized how many more acres of corn you could plant in a timely fashion. So, you’re ready to kick up the throttle.

There’s just one catch. If you don’t invest in seed tubes designed for faster planting and upgrade your planter overall, you may be disappointed. Your stand may not turn out as accurate as in the past, and you may harvest fewer bushels per acre in the fall.

Multiple sources who have tested various types of high-speed tubes indicate that you can drive at least 8 miles per hour without affecting stands and yields. But each source assumes the planter is equipped with a seed tube designed for high-speed planting.

“A conventional seed tube does a good job at the speeds it was designed for, but if you drive too slow or too fast, you can get bouncing of the seed as it hits the tube on the drop from the planter to the soil,” says Mike Gronski, a Pioneer field agronomist in north-central Wisconsin. “Bouncing of the seed within the tube leads to more skips and doubles.”

Gronski believes skips can be more damaging because there will be no ear. Doubles can perform well in a year with plentiful moisture. In a normal year, he would expect a decent ear and perhaps the plant next to it acting like a weed. In very dry years, both plants could be more like weeds, or one or both could produce small ears.

Testing in the field

Gronski planted replicated plots with a regular seed tube at 10 mph in 2018, then planted with a tube designed for high-speed planting at 10 mph. He found an 8-bushel-per-acre advantage just for using the tube designed for speed at 10 mph. However, in his area, he believes 10 mph pushes the limit due to stones and other soil-related concerns.

Through 2021, he compared planting with a regular seed plate delivering 99% singulation vs. a “goof plate” at 95% singulation, delivering both skips and doubles. Averaged over all years, there was a 2.1-bushel-per-acre advantage for 99% vs. 95% singulation. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

In 2019, a year that started and stayed wet in his area nearly all season, there was a slight advantage for 95% singulation.

“There were several doubles, and most of them produced ears because there was plenty of moisture,” Gronski observes. “That’s not normal for us, but it happened.”

Indeed, in 2020, the 99% singulation showed a 3-bushel-per-acre edge, and a healthy 5-bushel advantage in 2021.

The bottom line? Think through what’s happening in the field, and use technology like seed monitors that can report 99% singulation and seed tubes designed for high-speed planting to set the stage for best results.

Don’t assume you can judge singulation without a monitor, experts warn. Years ago, one researcher thought he was obtaining good singulation until he installed a planter monitor that showed singulation. He discovered that with certain seed sizes, he was only at 95% singulation when by sight, he thought it was much better. That knowledge helped him tweak adjustments and reach 99%, cutting out most skips and doubles.

TAGS: Planters Corn
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