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Proper planting can mean the difference between a good crop and a great crop. Proper planting may even be more important in organic systems than conventional. If you plant too deep, your beans will take longer to emerge, giving the weeds a head start, which is particularly bad if you weren’t planning on spraying with herbicide. Also, deep planting can delay emergence, which can result in seed losses due to rot (since your seed will not be fungicide-treated).
The 2 primary concerns of a field crop farmer are fertility and weeds. Once you have addressed fertility (see last post), pretty much everything else you do is about giving your crop an edge over competing weeds. Planting can have a huge impact on weed control, in a number of ways:
- Seeding depth: Planting too deep will increase the time it takes for seedlings to emerge, thereby giving weeds a head start. Planting too shallow can prevent you from using a tine weeder or rotary hoe for “blind harrowing” your seedbed. Planting too shallow can also result in uneven emergence due to lack of moisture near the surface.
- Row Spacing: For beans and corn, it is essential that you be able to cultivate between the rows, or “scuffle” your crop. Your planter will determine your row spacing, so your planter must be perfectly calibrated with your cultivation equipment. I don’t recommend experimenting with “no-till” organic farming until you have learned the traditional, tried-and-true method for organic production.
- Seed Population: Planting too little seed can greatly reduce your yield potential, even with good fertility. Planting too much seed wastes money (especially with corn), and can actually reduce yield, as your plants compete against each other, putting more energy into stalk height than seed production. Excess seed can cause “lodging” in beans, when the plants grow too tall and then fall over, making harvest difficult or even impossible.
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