The scariest thing about demonstration sites; the fact that what you say “should happen” and when you finally see what “has happened” doesn’t match up. Normally, this happens to you live right in front of a group of growers at a field day event. Nevertheless, I am not a big fan of being surprised, so I spend quite a bit of time checking trial locations out long before we get there with the combine. With all that has transpired this year, I am looking a bit closer at things than ever before.
Sometimes when it was still cold, Keith and I both started talking about the advantages of being able to have better control on your planter’s downforce. Then as we got closer to planting, we gave you specific ways in which you could control your downforce and how we intended to do it in the RD Innovation Sites. This summer we both talked about how that downforce affected root development, water and nutrient uptake, and even early season leaning of the corn. I hope you are starting to see a pattern here; if you do, it’s only natural we talk about it one more time before harvest, then probably at least one more time after harvest.
Here are the observations I have made after looking at the downforce demos we planted this spring. First – contrary to the assumption we make about downforce as an industry, that does not always mean that less downforce is the answer when trying to achieve optimum ground contact and gauge wheel load. (true that most the time we talk about too much downforce being our nemesis and the reason we should use a downforce system to protect us) In most cases this year it took more applied force than you would have expected to reach that optimum gauge wheel load. Think back to this spring, and how many of you mentioned the issues you had with getting the planter in the ground.
Second is the fact we see an improvement in stand quality and consistency. The nice thing about the Net Effective Stand Percentage is the fact that you could still do it this time of year if you wanted to. What we are seeing is an increase of harvestable ears of about 1,000-2,000 plants per acre and a more consistent ear height, which points to a more even emergence. That combination of those two things and a near elimination of doubles is going to make for some significant yield increases.
In this article, I am going to stop just short of making any predictions on how these locations are going to turn out, but I will promise you this. It will make for some interesting conversations later this year. In the meantime, I want you to look at your stands one time before you get out and start picking corn and watch the consistency and quality of your final stand. Then as harvest rolls on pay attention on how that quality holds together from now till the end. Take notes, take pictures, whatever, because I want to talk about those challenges with you after harvest, and maybe we can find solutions for the future.