Proper crop establishment, in my books, is one of the key factors to attaining higher yields. Inadequate plant stands and uneven germination will haunt you throughout the entire growing season. Thin plant stands also make it tougher to control weeds and can increase soil moisture loss in dry years. Meanwhile, adequate plant stands permit a crop to better compensate for in-season plant losses caused by frost and hail.
Uneven germination results in uneven plant growth and maturity, which can cause timing issues with herbicide and fungicide application. Just as you would not give an adult dose of medicine to a child because it would be harmful, many herbicide products can injure plants that are not at the proper application stage.
Take cereals for example: the maximum yield potential is often set between the 3- to 6-leaf stages, and any stress imposed on a crop during this time will negatively affect yield potential. You only get one chance to set a crop off to a good start. The goal is quick emergence with good rooting early on. Reseeding often occurs later in spring and under less than ideal seedbed conditions. Don’t forget that every additional operation will dry the soil and cause some level of compaction.
Early seeding is important to crop establishment because of our short growing seasons. Many crops respond well to cooler temperatures during the flowering period, and delays in seeding and emergence increase the risk of higher temperatures negatively affecting yields.
Proper crop establishment begins the previous fall with good residue management and seedbed preparation, which encourages early seeding and quick emergence the following spring. In addition, pay close attention to seeding depths to promote rapid and even emergence. If there is a lot of variability in soil textures on your land, seeding depth can vary considerably from field to field, and even within a field. Keep in mind seeding speed and opener types can also unfavourably affect seed placement.
As you can see, there’s a number of reasons why getting plants off to a healthy start sets you up for achieving your maximum yield potential. If you don’t set that goal from the beginning, you’re never going to achieve it later on as thin stands, uneven maturity and staging issues will take that maximum yield potential down. Taking steps to promote healthy stand establishment could be the most important ones you make when it comes to reaching your yield targets.
What are your top tips for proper stand establishment? I’d love to hear from you. Or contact a Cargill expert today for more information on getting your plants off to a great start.