Based on a simple measurement, you can see that the corn plant shown here grew from seed that was planted about 1.5" deep.
Based on a simple measurement, you can see that the corn plant shown here grew from seed that was planted about 1.5" deep.

Corn planting is underway in many areas now, and the crop will soon emerge. As it gets established, consider going out into the field with the grower to evaluate whether it emerged evenly or unevely. If it appears uneven, there's a strong likelihood that the grower's planting practices or preparation contributed to the problem. It's important information to know, because uneven emergence can hurt corn ear counts, says Missy Bauer Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist. The opposite is true, too.

Bauer provides these three simple steps to help you determine whether planting practices and/or preparation contributed to what you're seeing.

1. Dig up a corn plant, look at the root system and find the old seed. Note that the mesocotyl extends up to the base of the crown.

2. Hold the base of the crown at the 3⁄4" line of the measuring tape, as demonstrated in the photo provided. Then, measure the length of the mesocotyl down to the bottom of the seed. This measurement is your planting depth for that specific plant.

3. Measure the planting depth of neighboring plants. Look for variations in the mesocotyl length between plants and compare your findings. Any variations tell you there was a lack of planting-depth uniformity. Plants that vary 1⁄4" or more in planting-depth consistency can reduce ear size or count.  

"When uniformity isn’t even from plant to plant that may indicate a planting problem," Bauer notes.
 
If that is where you believe things went wrong, review these four common contributing factors with the grower while planting is still fresh in his mind. Try to identify which one or two of these are the culprits and plan to make necessary corrections:
  • the planter didn't run level
  • planting speed was too fast
  • disk openers were poorly adjusted
  • down pressure was too much or too little