Spring 2017 has brought some early planting conditions, which were unfortunately followed by heavy rains. As the standing water recedes, the surfaces of many fields may crust over. And any seedling trapped underneath the hard layer at the surface will continue to grow until they run out of energy.
“A lot of times when farmers are thinking about rotary hoeing when they should have done it yesterday,” says Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer. “With severe crusting, a rotary hoe can help save the plants that are here. Hoes will crack open the crust and break up the surface to allow plants to emerge easier.”
When fields crust over and corn doesn’t emerge stress can lead to a state of paralysis in decision making. However, there is a decision-making process before you head to the field with the hoe.
“You need to compare the plants that have emerged and could be damaged versus the plants you are trying to save from leafing out underground,” she says.
Set flags in an area of the field--one color for plants that are above ground, and one
color for plants expected to be underground. Then run the hoe through the area and do an evaluation.
“A lot of times, guys run the rotary hoe too late. Make the decision quickly before you damage too many plants or the ground gets so hard you can’t improve the condition,” she says.