Prepare to Manage Sidewall Compaction Now to Protect Yield Potential at Planting Time
The 2017 growing season saw growers facing many yield robbing factors but an extremely common issue was sidewall compaction. Sidewall compaction occurs when the soil structure of the seed trench has been compromised and tightly compacted due to a combination of mechanical pressure and field moisture. Corn, because of its fibrous root structure, is highly susceptible to sidewall compaction and the root growth restriction that accompanies it. Poor root growth will have season long impacts on the corn plant and can seriously reduce yield potential as a result. Seasons, like 2017, when springs were wet and then summers switch to exceptionally dry conditions are much more likely to see the yield robbing power of sidewall compaction. Planting into wet conditions are the number one cause of sidewall compaction as the water acts like lubricant for soil particles and helps to pack them together. As the season progresses and becomes drier the compaction zone becomes increasingly hard, restricting the plants access to necessary water and nutrients. Managing sidewall compaction from the beginning is an important step in maintain high yield potential in your corn crop. Talk with your Jacobsen Seed Representative about how to manage it on your farm.
These tips can help reduce sidewall compaction on your farm for the 2018 season.
Wait to plant – Wet conditions are the number one cause of soil compaction! If possible, wait for drier conditions to plant. One grower in 2017 saw a 40 bu/ac yield difference with the same hybrid between two planting dates only 2 days apart.
Reduce down-pressure in damp conditions – If a field must be planted in conditions that are still on the wet side, reduce the row unit down pressure. This will help reduce the force pushing the soil particles together.
Avoid planting too shallow – Most corn planters are designed for corn to be planted at 2-3 inches below the soil surface. Angled press wheels have imaginary lines that intersect around this depth. Properly closing the seed trench is designed to help fracture minor sidewall compaction.
Reduce unnecessary tillage – Unnecessary or excess tillage can destroy the natural structure of the soil. Soil without a structure is more susceptible to compaction of all kinds.
Consider spoked closing wheels – Many companies create spoked closing wheels that are designed to fracture sidewall compaction. Some growers implement one spoked wheel and one standard wheel and some change both closing wheels to those designed with spokes.