Sometimes, it’s that last lousy 1% of a thing that doesn’t go according to plan. Your smooth plane ride ends with a landing so rough that even the flight attendant loses her cookies. Your team is up by five until that rally in the 9th. Your sound night of sleep ends with an early phone call from Aunt Mae.
This week’s article is the last in our planter series, and it’s about closing.
The closing mechanism on your planter plays a huge role, yet we sometimes take it for granted. I mean, it just covers the seeds with soil, right? Well, sure, but that means a lot as it affects things like root development, imbition of water, and the microclimate around the seed, which in turn determine the perfection (or problems) of stand consistency.
There are a fair amount of aftermarket options to consider for the backend of your planter, from simple chains to contraptions that look straight out of Mad Max. Instead of lecturing you about which of these closing systems are best though, I’d rather talk about something more practical, which is how to make whatever system you have work best.
My friends, if this article leaves you understanding anything at all, I want it to be this: a closing system has two goals: 1) to close the furrow and completely cover the seed with soil, and 2) to gently firm the soil surrounding the seed. This second task is a balancing act. The closing mechanism must firm the soil enough to remove unwanted pockets of air but not so much as to compress all air from the soil or create massive changes in soil density. It’s a tough task as is and even tougher given variable soil conditions.
Soil moisture content is one main factor that most determines how a given closing system will work. In soil that is almost too wet, a spiked wheel performs best. (Note that that is not permission to go galavanting around in too-wet soil.) If the same soil is on the edge of dry though, a rubber wheel is the better bet. In fields that are some combination of the two, no surprise: a combination of the two systems will best help you achieve success.
Soil type is the other main factor in determining how a system will work. In sandy soil, for example, a cast wheel type will give you the results you are looking for. The heavier the soil type though, the less solid we want our closers to be, because we really want to firm the soil from the outside in rather than the top down. Heavier soil types hold more moisture so tend to stick to the closing wheel and either smear or ball up—when this happens, the soil isn’t really firmed at all.
The key to all of this really is managing down pressure, and this is accomplished via planter settings. The ugly truth is that there is no one setting or one magic formula. A successful closing system depends on the rest of your planter being set correctly and operating properly and it depends on you keeping a steady eye to changes in soil conditions as you plant. Good management of all these things will ensure even emergence of your corn, consistent ear size, and higher yields.
The days you plant will be full of change. Hour by hour, field by field, conditions will change and so must the settings of your planter. Truly successful planting takes constant readjustment of your heading. Attending to this need though will allow you to command a smooth but firm finish to your planting operation, in spite of even the most turbulent conditions. So although that final 1% might not go according to plan, it will nevertheless be an ending that you can enjoy.
And though that sentence would have been quite a perfect closing, I can’t help but add one final thought as I close our brief series: as planting approaches, we will hear some hype surround planters that move faster than ever before. This might be music to your ears, but don’t buy into the hype just yet. As of today, speed still kills. We’ll see about tomorrow…