tractor and planter in field
PLANT POPULATION: Farm margins are tight, forcing some farmers into cost cutting measures. Seeding rates this spring may be one area where they’re considering making cuts.

3 things to consider before cutting seeding rates

Field Finds: Be careful when trying to save money by reducing plant populations.

By Kyle Allen

While checking the weather on the phone one recent morning, the temperature was expected to reach just 11 degrees F. On the other hand, two days later here in Hawk Point, Mo., the forecast is called for highs in the 60s. My dad has always said if you don’t like the weather in Missouri, just give it a few days — it will change. And on cold days, there is no better place to find the latest trends in farming than the local coffee shop.

With farmers sitting around tables talking about cutting costs this spring, the first thing they discuss is seed. It is not the type of seed each one is placing in the ground, but the amount of seed placed in the ground.

Impact of cutting seeding rates
If you are kicking around the idea of cutting back seeding rates on corn and soybeans, the question you need to find an answer for is, why?

If you’re cutting back seeding rates solely to save money, put a pencil to it. If you cut back 10% to 15% of your seeding rates, you are cutting back the main thing you are planting to help make you money. Grab that pencil and scratch even deeper to find places like tillage, chemicals or extra trips across the field to save you some dollars.

If you still cannot find an area to trim costs, below are three key points to keep in mind:

1. Seed treatment. When I sit down with growers who want to trim plant populations, I suggest they treat that seed. You need to get all of those plants up and out of the ground. It’s hard enough to raise a crop with a half stand than a 100% stand. A seed treatment can help. 

2. Right products at low populations. Many corn varieties have different characteristics, such as upright leaves or conventional leaf type. Pick those hybrids that have conventional leaf types to help shade those rows better and not allow as much sunlight in the canopy. Same thing for soybeans: Pick out those varieties that are more bushy and wide and cover those rows better.

3. Figure germination into your planting population. Double-check those seed tags and examine the germination of your seed varieties. Take soybeans, for example. You may plant 140,000 plants per acre, but if you only have 85% germination, that’s a big hit in the plants you already lose off the top.

Work alongside your seed supplier if you are kicking around the idea of cutting back on your planting populations. Each corn hybrid or soybean variety is completely different from the others. It all starts with putting the right product on the right acre.

Take advantage of the sunshine of this month, and get those planters ready. Spring will be here before we know it.

Allen is owner of Allen Seed and Service, where he scouts 3,500 acres of corn and 10,000 acres of soybeans annually. He writes from Hawk Point, Mo.

TAGS: Soybean Corn
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