Sowing Seed - Rise and shine

PROMO 64J1 Agriculture - Column Sowing Seeds Plant Growth Soil Green - iStock - ArtRachen01
Published Saturday, January 18, 2020
PICT Head Robert Strasner - Sowing Seeds
by Bob Strasner

My wife and I are polar opposites when it comes to getting up and going to bed. She stays up late and gets up at 5:00 a.m. sharp every day. I go to bed early and will sleep as long as possible up to about 8:00 a.m. This does not cause problems most of the time except when we have relatives visiting. Being a creature of habit, I want to go to bed early like I always do, and she wants me to stay up until the relatives go to bed. Ain't going to happen. When the Sandman comes calling, I have to go, relatives or not. Is it rude of me? Yeah, I suppose it is, but I wouldn't be very good company dosing off in the middle of a conversation either.

What in the world does this have to do with the plant world though? I'm glad you asked. 

If there is one very simple thing you can do to save potential yield of whatever you are planting, it's sowing your seed to give it every available resource to emerge (rise and shine) together within a 24-hour window.

First and foremost, why am I saying save yield potential instead of adding yield potential? The reason is simple. Every seed you put in the ground is capable of producing a top end yield. Everything you do to that seed and the resulting plant takes yield away from that top end yield. If I told you that corn was capable of 700 to 800 bushels to the acre, you would laugh at me. It is, and there are some people getting close to that in contest situations. The same goes for cotton, tomatoes, soybeans and the list goes on.

Why is the 24-hour window so important? If you can get even emergence, the crop will develop at the same rate, pollinate at the same time and mature at the same time. The best example really is corn. If you can assure that the pollen shed and silking will all happen at the same time, you are going to end up with fuller, more uniform ears. This is a hypothetical question, but would you let someone walk down each row of corn and pick three ears off and toss them on the ground every seventeen feet? If you have three plants out of every 32 in those 17 feet fall behind and get shaded out or miss the pollen shed, you have lost nearly nine percent of potential yield. Early emergence just gives that crop another advantage that it wouldn't have if the growth stages were all over the place. A couple of days can make a difference. 

How do you get to even emergence? First, you plant into a seed bed that is meant for germinating seed. You need that seed at the same depth, same temperature, same soil moisture and same fertility. You also need to plant a variety that has good early emergence. The trend has been to plant earlier and earlier. If you are doing this, emergence becomes even a bigger player in the game.

Second, you need to slow that planter down. Bouncing along at differing depths is going to guarantee you emergence that is all over the board.

Third, you will need an adequate seed treatment that includes both fungicide and insecticide. I've seen lots of early stand reduction from damping off (pythium or rhizoctonia) fungus that results from cold wet soils. If you are farming organically, garlic can help with this.

Lastly, there are biologicals that you can add to your starter fertilizer, or add in the seed slice in some cases, that actually promote root growth. I have done trials with some of these products, and can honestly say that they do increase root mass. There are several on the market to choose from. Ask your local crop input retailer about these products.

I'm assuming most of us have children. Children are the one biggest blessings God has given us. They are also one of the biggest challenges God has put in front us. It doesn't stop at 18 either. In fact, I don't know if it will stop. That's ok though. I wouldn't trade my boys for all the gold in Fort Knox.

We all have tried and true methods of child rearing. Our parents pass down most of it. I really admire Mother, who had seven of us to keep in line. I've got a friend from back in the Panhandle of Oklahoma that took child raising to another level though. I don't know if he is the first parent to have come up with this particular lesson for bad judgment or not. I just know I was more than impressed. I know his son was impressed and remains impressed to this day thirty years later.

My friend's son came to him Friday evening and asked if he could have the car to go cruising around on Saturday night. My friend said he could have it on one condition. He was not to leave town to go to a college town 15 miles away. Well, his son thought if he was sneaky enough, he could run over there and not get caught. As it turns out, his son was not sneaky enough, and a family friend commented to my friend that he had seen him in the college town on Saturday night. This was not good news for his son. 

When asked if he had left town with the car, his son said no. When confronted with the eyewitness testimony, his son confessed to the crime and said he was sorry for lying. My friend grounded him from the car for a month and to the house for a week. He was a model citizen for the week and was released from grounding.

Trying his luck, he asked his father if he could borrow the car for a date. My friend said that since he had been such a good guy for the week, he would let him take it. His son set up the date. The night of the date he got all slicked up and went asked his dad for the keys to the car. My friend replied that he was not getting the car for another three weeks. His son was mad and said, "you told me I could have it for this date I have set up with my girlfriend." My friend's reply, "I lied."

Thanks for your time and remember to support your paper and your local businesses. God bless you. Bob

Bob Strasner is an agronomist based in south central Kansas. He has over 30 years of experience in the farming, soil science and plant science business. His weekly column focuses on agronomy, horticulture, soil science, farming in general, rural-small town community life, some life-learned wisdom and a good dose of humor here and there. may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.