After we started to understand the soil compaction talked about in my previous blog entry, we started to investigate other stressed fields, as well as a few less stressed. Our findings amazed us! We continued to use the excavator to dig root pits looking for soil compaction and discovered very tight soils with many areas of extreme side wall compaction or smearing. We asked ourselves what we needed to change. Do we need to make changes to the times we’re in the field doing spring and/or fall tillage? Do we need different closing wheels on our corn planter? Do operators of corn planters need to spend more time out of the cab looking at where the seed is at and the condition of the soil? What are we going to change to do better in 2013 than in 2012?

The first change that we came up with was looking at planter closing wheels. Producers need to really think about the importance of the difference in closing wheels. The picture below with the roots on the right hand side shows what happens to roots when side wall compaction or smearing is present.  The root on the left hand side comes from the same field and is of the same variety, but was in an area of the field that was more ready to plant. 

Everyone gets excited to get all their acres planted right away in the spring and there’s always a percentage of those acres that are planted in less than ideal conditions. In a particular field there was a 40 bushel yield difference that was based on how ready the ground was at planting. We may need to consider using a toothed closing wheel, such as one in the picture below, which is working extremely well in our area. 

   

Questions about tillage, dealing with side wall compaction and the soil tightness may be answered by the following. We possibly need to look at getting the soil loosened up and steer away from those tillage passes that are simply being used to speed up the time delay for planting. We need to be in the mindset that we are using tillage to manage soil tightness and soil compaction and not to speed up the drying of the ground in the spring.

In closing, we still need to spend time during spring planting out of the cab, looking at the soil quality that our seeds are sitting in. That is the most crucial thing because you only have one chance to get it right.