About two months ago, I spent some time talking about trial results that we saw from our Innovation Sites and On-Farm Research that we did last year. I talked a bit about the emergence trials that we did last year, and how they related to Downforce and yield. If you missed that, you can go back and look up the March 1st “RD Trial Results” article online. Today, I don’t want to rehash that conversation, but I do want to revisit it so that we can grow upon it.
This season we will again be working on documenting emergence and looking at its effects on yield. As a refresher, we flag plants on the day that they emerge, with a different color representing each day of emergence. We check day one, two, three, and ten. Then we look at the plants before harvest and do hand yield checks on them to see how yield compares to emergence date.
What we know is that there are really two factors that contribute to consistent emergence more than anything else. The first is the consistency of the seeding depth. If our row unit is moving up and down and we are seeing a half inch of variation in seeding depth, that is probably enough to make a three-day difference in emergence in cool years, or years where we see crusting. The second is the soil moisture that we plant into. If our soils are near field capacity in the top four inches like this year, then this isn’t a factor. But if we have a wide variation in soil types, or are planting into a dryer soil, then a soil that is 20% of field capacity can cause some imbibing issues that will cause differences in emergence.
What we discovered was that any delay of more than a day was yield-robbing. Given the planting conditions, or more specifically the germination and emergence conditions that we dealt with last year, the question “was the yield loss that we saw last normal or abnormal?” That question can only be answered by repeating the research this year and see what the results are this time around.
But this year we will have a chance to extend what we can do and take more measurements out in the field after the crop is up and growing. Precision Planting developed an app called POGO Research that works with a tool we call the POGO stick. This tool digitally connects to our iPad and the cloud to let us measure spacing, singulation, and emergence. This is just a tool that lets us do quick scouting checks to measure planter performance by digitally measuring distance and speeding up the process. It is not intended to replace a crop scout or what your trusted Agronomist does for you though. It is merely a tool that lets you measure your performance.
The POGO platform isn’t a replacement for the flagging process on our fields. It is looking at the horizontal placing of our seeds more than the vertical spacing. But even with so, it will still give us the ability to “get an idea” of our emergence.
My call to action to you today is that we need growers who are interested in an honest evaluation of their planter. We are looking for different downforce systems on different planter models to compare how the emergence looks across tillage systems and soil types. We are not looking for a lot of people, but growers who work closely with their local ACS Regional Specialist or their ACS Equipment Technician and their FSA’s. So if you have some curiosity about what you stand is going to look like when it comes up, and would like to score it objectively, get in touch with us. Then, not only will you see your score, but at years end, you will see how other planters and areas scored as well.