Properly determining seed depth by calculating soil moisture

Farmers know it is important to plant their crops as soon as possible every spring, but it is also important to plant those seeds at the right depth and there are several factors to consider.

Soil moisture is the key metric for determining the correct settings on your planter.

According to Bryce Baker, Precision Planting Marketing Manager, “Make adjustments based on the available seed moisture. They can go deeper if there’s not enough, or maybe if you’re planting two inches and there is enough moisture, try planting a little bit shallower, so it’s closer to the surface to be able to emerge as long as it stays in moisture.”

He says that adjustments as small as half an inch have a direct impact on early plant growth.

“If you set an inch and a half, you’re actually planting an inch and a half on all the rows. Once that happens, and I’m confident I’m planting at the correct depth or the same depth on all rows, the goal would be to get them deep enough to have adequate moisture to germinate but not go deeper,” he states. If I go a half inch deeper than what I have to, it can introduce what’s called resistance to emergence.”

Giving the plant a good foundation can set up the harvest for greater yields.

“From a productivity standpoint, as a farmer, stopping a planter to make an adjustment is hard psychologically because you need to have acres per hour, especially in ideal conditions,” he adds. “From a yield perspective, there are some fields you might... plant two inches in, but the soil in this field is really dried out, actually going to two and a half or two and a quarter inches because there’s no rain coming and going to give me enough moisture for germination. In that field, I might pick up 20 bushels.”

Baker notes that Precision Planting has new tools which can make these adjustments easier and from the comfort of the cab.