One of the simplest ways to improve a crop's yield performance is to be meticulous with all aspects of planting. Poor stand establishment can result in poor plant development, which can be a leading cause of yield loss. Traditionally, much attention is given to the process of fine-tuning a planter to achieve good seed-to-soil contact and uniform seed placement. However, one of the best time investments that a grower may make all year is ensuring that the planter is placing the seed at the proper depth, says Stephen Smith, agronomy services manager at Mycogen Seeds.

"Planting conditions change with every field a grower plants. Factors such as crop rotation, previous tillage operations, residue amounts, moisture conditions, soil types, soil structure, field uniformity and compaction are just a few of the variables that will change from field to field. Because of these variable conditions, seed planting depth can vary greatly, even within the same field," he explains.

According to Smith, the proper corn seed planting depth is between 1.5 and 2 in. "Seed planted less than 1-in. deep may have root establishment problems which can lead to increased herbicide injury, lack of root mass and increased root lodging. Seed planted more than 2.5-in. deep will potentially take longer to emerge and will be placed in a more hostile growing environment," he explains.

"The only way to properly monitor seed placement is to frequently stop and check the location of the seed. The more you check, the better your results will be," he says.

When planting into a new field, planting depth should be checked frequently because it may vary an inch or more by location within the field, says Smith. "Check planting depth in an area that is representative of the field. Field margins that are exposed to heavy traffic from previous years and areas where soil has been recently disturbed are not good areas to check. If residue conditions change greatly across the field or tillage practices are not uniform, then seed depth should be rechecked in areas where field conditions change," he recommends.

"At the very least, be alert to changing planting conditions, and take a moment to review activity behind the planter. A few well-spent minutes can result in a better, healthier stand and may prevent a disaster resulting from improper seed depth," he explains.

"All of a grower's careful planning may make no difference if proper seed placement is not obtained," he shares.

For further information, please contact Stephen Smith, Agronomy Services Manager with Mycogen Seeds, at 317-337-4662 or by e-mail at sesmith@dow.com.