Making The Season Work

Third time's the charm in dealing with tough spring soil conditions.

Rick Hargrave, Image by Mark Moore

Patience. That’s what springtime extreme soil conditions demanded of Wisconsin growers Rick and Carla Hargrave.

“Our number one challenge at planting was cool and wet soil conditions,” says Rick, who farms with his wife, Carla, a former University of Wisconsin Extension county agent, near Berlin, Wisconsin. “We had some standing corn stalks where we didn’t do any fall tillage. My plan was to no-till right between the rows; I went 20 feet into the field and knew that wasn’t going to work. Then I brought in my Turbo-till unit and made one pass, and knew that wasn’t going to work, either. A few days later we tried a Dawn Pluribus Zone-till machine that went in between the rows, which turned out to be the best practice we did all spring.” He says it provided a good seedbed they could plant into four hours later.

Quick Progress. “We were two to three weeks behind our normal planting time, but once we got rolling, the crop went into the ground fast. We had five days of 90- to 95-degree temperatures, and corn popped out of the ground fast and even.”

With a 16-row Kinze planter, the Hargraves used their normal planting rate: on pivot irrigated ground they run 35,000 to 38,000 plants per acre, and 30,000 to 32,000 on dryland.

Despite of the slow start, these Wisconsin farmers have a great looking crop; it is uniform because of early warm weather at emergence. And the crop is clean. On some land, they went with a pre-emergence herbicide, and on other ground they used a post-emergence herbicide because of timing and weather. Status and glyphosate were used for cleanup. No-till acres received a burndown before planting. And aside from using an insecticide seed treatment, they do not normally have to spray for insects.

Health Analytic Tool. This season the Hargraves are trying a BASF Plant Health analytic tool to time fungicide application and monitor plant stress throughout the year. Using the analytic tool through Wade Oehmichen, their BASF Innovation Specialist, they will conduct disease sampling at V5, V10 and VT to keep a close eye on the plant. They normally apply a BASF fungicide on 100 percent of their irrigated corn. They generally do not apply a fungicide on dryland corn, which is grown on pieces of ground that do not have as high of a yield potential as their irrigated land.

They farm about 600 acres of pivot-irrigated corn and 400 acres of dryland corn. Their dryland fertility program differs from that for their irrigated ground. On dryland, they make three fertilizer applications: one at planting, one at V3, and one at V7. The first application is through the planter and the second is urea plus diammonium phosphate plus ammonium sulfate. They later sidedress 32 percent urea ammonium nitrate and thiosulfate.

They place nutrients into the root zone for better fertilizer utilization. They set up their 16-row Kinze planter for dry fertilizer placement, banded near the seed, making it easier for the plant to uptake and utilize the nutrients.

“Another benefit is we save 17 cents per unit pound of phosphorus using dry fertilizer vs. 10-34-0,” Rick adds. “Applying 46 units of P through DAP, we save $7.82 per acre vs. using 10-34-0. “On irrigated corn, we apply 20 units of nitrogen at planting. And then we spoonfeed 32 percent plus Thiosulfate five times through fertigation. This fall we plan to overlay our variable rate application maps with our yield maps to detect any correlation between our fertilizer rates and our yields.”

To learn more about the innovative practices these farmers use, check out the information in their weekly blogs, available at


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