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Spring is upon us! As the drills and planters are pulled out of hibernation, it is important to take the time to assess the stand they leave behind. Spring is a busy time of year. After all of the seed is in the ground, fertilizer applied, and herbicide is sprayed, we are all ready to put our feet up, have a cold one and watch the corn rows grow. Before we can do that, it is important to take a walk through the fields and evaluate corn and soybean emergence. Scouting fields after the plants have emerged provides us with very important knowledge on tillage, soil conditions at planting, planter maintenance, seed treatment, and replant decisions.
Even emergence is very important in establishing a high-yielding stand. If plants are not emerging at the same time - dig deeper to find out why. One common cause of uneven emergence is rough seed-bed preparation. Good seed to soil contact is necessary for uniform establishment. If there is corn residue in the seed trench preventing the seed from touching soil, look at the disc openers to see if they need replacing, or consider using row cleaners if you are using a planter. Uneven planting depth can also prevent uniform emergence. If some plants are placed at 2” depth while others are placed at 1 ½” deep, perhaps it is time to go over the planter or drill and make sure everything is properly maintained. Is it easy to dig down into the seed trench and root zone of the plant or is the sidewall of the seed trench restricting root growth? Sometimes the soil will seem fit enough at planting but once the soil dries, the sidewall becomes difficult for roots to penetrate. Perhaps the following year you will want to wait an extra day or two to allow the soil to dry before getting on the field. If you decided to forego insecticide seed treatment this year, take a look at the emerging seedlings or seeds sitting in the seed trench to see if there is any insect feeding. Make note of fields and soil conditions where you found insect feeding, and consider use of insecticide seed treatment on those fields in future years.
If your field does not have the picket fence stand that you were hoping for, learn from this spring and make changes for next year. If you are in a position where you are deciding whether or not to replant, check populations and uniformity in multiple locations across the field before making a decision. When in doubt, always ask an expert to help you make the decision!