William Thomas Ainsworth.

Practical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers online

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and harrowed down before the weeds have an opportunity
to grow up in the stalk fields. A growth of weeds before



plowing is injurious to the physical condition of the soil, since
it makes it compact and allows a rapid evaporation of mois-
ture. When the weeds are turned under later in the spring,
they destroy the capillarity between the furrow slice and the
bottom of the furrow.

The necessity for cutting stalks, discing, plowing and har-
rowing the corn ground all within a short period of three

A N S F I E l_D^,O H I O , U-S. A.

A popular disc in Illinois

or four weeks has brought about what the farmer calls "the
rush of spring work," but there is no way to get around it
if one expects to do good farming.

A great many agricultural writers (not many of them
active farmers, however) advocate eight hours as being all
a man and team should be made to stand in the field. This
may be all right from an ethical standpoint ; but every farmer


knows that it is impossible to hire extra men and teams on
short notice. When "rainy days off" are taken into con-
sideration, we think that a ten-hour day is not too much
to ask of either man or team. Most of our own farm help
come from Kentucky, where they are accustomed to plow
from "sun to sun," and consider ten hours in the field a
short day's work.


The depth to which ground should be plowed in order to
give the best results must, of necessity, vary with conditions.
There is, perhaps, no subject on which farmers and writers
differ so widely as on the matter of the depth of plowing.
One writer says ' ' deep plowing of sandy land is not advisable,
particularly in the spring. On clay land deeper plowing
should be the rule." On the other hand, a corn lecturer of
national fame says: "What is known as deep plowing is
generally not advisable in the corn belt, although the loose
soils and bottom-lands may be plowed much deeper than the
black prairie soils with less danger of bad results." While
these two statements are not altogether contradictory, they
have, at least, a tendency to leave the reader in doubt.

In order to make ourselves more clearly understood, we
shall state that we consider six inches and over deep plowing,
and four inches and under shallow plowing. Plowing from
four to six inches deep may be considered as medium deep


The advocates of deep plowing claim that since a loose,
porous soil has a greater moisture holding capacity than a
more compact soil, the deeper the plowing the more moisture
will be retained. Deep plowing allows plant food to get



deeper into the soil and thereby extends the feeding zone of
the root system.

Hillsides do not wash so badly when plowed deep, since
the rain can sink more easily into the soil than would be the
case if plowed shallow. If the plowing is going to be deeper
than six inches, it had best be done in the fall because the
fall rains, aided by the freezing and thawing of winter and
spring, will re-establish the capillary connection with the
subsoil. This capillarity is necessary for a good seed bed
and is not so readily re-established with deep plowing as
where the plowing is shallow.

(Courtesy Roderick Lean Mfg. Co.)


i r i

Plowing should not be at the same depth from year to
year, since such a practice does not mix the soil well and the
pressure of the plow and trampling of the horses will, in
time, solidify the bottom of the furrows. Where land has
been plowed four or five inches deep for a number of years,
we know of nothing that will make the farmer more money
for the added effort involved than to plow such land six or
seven inches deep and break up the crust.

We plow from five to seven inches deep, depending on
the time of the year, the condition of the ground, and what
we are turning under.

In fall plowing for corn we plow from six to seven inches,


or as deep as the team can pull the plow. When we are
turning under soy beans, however, the plowing is shallow
in order to allow the plants to rot more quickly. This ground
is plowed deep in the spring when the beans are put in.

In plowing stalks under we try to plow six inches deep,
if the ground is dry, since the stalks are covered better than
in plowing four or five inches deep. Never try to cover stalks
with only four inches of soil when the field is to go in
corn. Subsequent cultivations will drag them out and they
will be a continual source of annoyance throughout the crop
tending season.


Blue-grass sod, or ground that has been in pasture for a
number of years, should be plowed in the fall. In plowing
blue-grass it is a good plan to plow very shallow in the fall
and follow with a plowing at least two inches deeper in the
spring. This is more work than is necessary to break any
other sod with which we are familiar. If the sod is very
tough, a wide angle moldboard should be used. This will
pull more easily and will turn the sod under much better
than the general purpose plows found on most farms. Clover
and timothy meadows that constitute a part of the short crop
rotations of the corn belt seldom become sodded enough to
necessitate the use of the sod plow.

If sod is plowed in the spring it should be done early.
Wet sod, although it turns up slick on the bottom of the
furrow slice, will not bake and become cloddy because of the
presence of such an abundance of humus. Owing to the rush
of farm work in the spring every effort should be made to get
the sod plowed by the time the corn stalk land is in condition
to work.

In some cases it might be well to break clover sod late in
order to enrich the land with the greater amount of nitrogen


stored in the additional growth of clover. This plan is very
satisfactory if there be sufficient rainfall during May and
June. In the case of a dry summer, the clover will have
already used up a large part of the moisture stored in the
soil so that there is but little left for the corn. Our own
experience with early and late plowed clover sod showed a
difference in the yield of corn of nearly thirty bushels in
favor of the early plowing. This was in the spring of 1911.
In 1911 there was ample rainfall during May and the first
half of June. As a result, late plowed clover sod made a
good showing. This year (1913) has been hot and dry, and
corn planted on late plowed sod has been almost a failure,
while some early spring plowed clover sods have made as high
as seventy bushels.


An ideal seed bed, as stated in the beginning of this
chapter, should be aerated and not run together. At the
same time, the soil particles should be compressed closely
around the seed in order to insure quick and even germina-
tion. A maximum amount of moisture should be conserved
in the subsoil by having a shallow dust mulch on the surface.
Last, but not least in importance, a large number of weed
seed would have sprouted, and all that show on the surface
should be killed immediately before planting. When the
greater part of the weeds are killed before planting and the
seed bed is moist and free from clods it can safely be said
that the crop is half provided for.

Since the method of preparing the seed bed is determined
largely by the local condition of soil and climate, we shall not
attempt to give general directions for working the ground
which might apply to one farm but not to another. Instead,
we shall outline the methods followed on our own farms.


As we have stated, each day's plowing is harrowed the
next morning. If a hard rain comes, all the ground pre-
viously plowed is again harrowed before proceeding with the
plowing. If the rainfall is very heavy and many weeds have
started, the ground is single pulverized in place of being

This year we had no rain on over two hundred acres
from the time the ground was plowed until after the corn
was planted. This was a period of four weeks without even
a shower. No amount of work could make an ideal seed
bed under such conditions. We did what we could to
pulverize the soil and conserve what moisture we had. After
the ground had been plowed and harrowed twice, it was rolled
with a corrugated roller. This was followed immediately with
the disc harrows lapping half.

When the discing was finished, the ground was harrowed
cross-wise of the discing. This harrowing pulled most of
the clods to the top. For this reason we followed the harrow
with a second rolling. The fields were then harrowed twice
by lapping half and followed immediately by the planter
equipped with furrow openers.

Double discing is a slow operation. At the same time, it
is the best implement we know with which to preserve mois-
ture, facilitate seed bed preparation, and hasten decay of
organic matter. A sharp, bright disc with the levers set well
forward will work in and through the furrow slice; while
smoothing harrows and corrugated rollers work only the sur-
face. Four good horses and an eight-foot disc harrow will
double disc (lapping half each time and leaving the ground
level) forty acres in five days. Repeated discings, by keep-
ing down all vegetable growth, will destroy, by starvation and
exposure, all such insects as the corn-root louse, cutworms
and grubworms.


On most soils, with a normal amount of rainfall in the
spring, the roller is not needed to prepare the seed bed for
corn. Two harrowings with a double discing between, just
before planting, will put the seed bed in ideal shape three
years out of four.

We seldom roll directly ahead of the planter and never
behind. Our experience has been that rolling causes the
weeds to start quickly, which is not desirable after the corn
is planted. Some implement should precede directly ahead
of the planter in order to get a last whack at sprouted weed
seeds before planting. If disc markers are used, the driver
of the planter will have a plain mark in the freshly worked
dirt. The use of the disc marker does away with the necessity
of rolling in order to see the mark.


We know by experience that sufficient time is not often
given to the preparation of the seed bed before planting. This
is due mostly to having more ground in corn than can properly
be prepared and tended. In the corn belt, where corn is king,
it takes nearly twice as many horses and men to handle eighty
acres of corn as it does to handle forty acres. Very often
it is. better to cut down the corn acreage rather than go to
the expense of buying more equipment.

The farmer should be prepared to handle his field work on
unusual seasons when additional work is required to make
a proper seed bed. No one can say beforehand how much
work will be required to get a field in shape for planting.
A field of clover sod that is plowed in the fall can sometimes
be put in good shape with a single discing and one or two
harrowings. It is usually better, however, to double disc if
for no other reason than that the ground is left level.


An example of a field that required a great deal of work
was a blue-grass sod that we plowed shallow in the fall. This
field was double pulverized twice, harrowed three times and
rolled once and then was not in good shape for planting
the corn. The winter was dry and the sod did not rot as
it usually does. If this field could have been plowed about
five or six inches deep it would not have required so much
work in the spring. We know of a stalk field where the stock
were allowed to run late, that broke up so cloddy that it re-
quired six alternate rollings and harrowings to make a seed
bed. Although there were some clods left, the field produced
eighty-five bushels to the acre and the farmer was well paid
for his thorough work.

Frank Mann sums up this situation when he says : ' ' There
is no way to get ground in good condition except to work it,
and the worse condition it is in the more work is needed."

Some soils require more work than others. Additional
implements can be purchased on short notice, but men and
horses have to be arranged for in advance. One can never
tell how much time one will have in which to prepare ground
in the spring for corn. In this latitude we do well to get
our oats in by the fifth of April. If the weather is favorable
and the ground warm, we start planting corn by the fifth
of May. If wet weather kept us out of the field a week or
ten days in April, we have only three weeks in which to
prepare the corn ground. In our own practice we average
using one horse for every eight acres that we intend to put
in corn. Some of these are brood mares and are used only
during the preparation of the seed bed, when every imple-
ment requires four horses. We consider this ratio about
right for the average season. Sometimes we could get along
with fewer horses, but more often it would pay us to have



Since the most mature corn is always the result of early
planting, the farmer should make every effort to have his
ground in shape by the time of year that planting is generally
begun. Then, if the ground is too cold, he should wait until
it warms up. We have made numerous germination tests
which have convinced us that corn will not germinate or grow
to advantage when the temperature of the soil is below sixty
degrees. If the temperature is below fifty degrees for a week
or ten days, some of the sprouted grains, although the seed
is of the very best, will rot in the ground.

From the fifth to the twentieth of May is considered the
best time to plant corn in Central Illinois. The time varies,
in any locality, from one to two weeks, depending on the
soil and the weather. In the western part of Mason County,
which is very sandy, planting can safely be started a week
or ten days earlier than in the eastern part, where there is
a heavier loam which does not warm up so quickly as the
lighter soil.

An old-time general rule was to "Plant corn when the
leaves on the white oak tree are as large as a squirrel 's foot. ' '
There is considerable significance in this fact, as the oak is
tardy in showing its leaves until the ground has had its spring
warming. Another good rule is to wait until volunteer corn
has started to grow around the cribs and barns. If the season
is very backward and the weather-man assures us that warmer



weather is on the road it is sometimes advisable to start plant-
ing even if the ground is a little cold, in order to finish before
the season is too far advanced. \A.t the Illinois Experiment
Station at Urbana (latitude forty degrees), a six year's test
shows the largest yield to come from corn planted May 4th to


The depth of planting, like the time of planting, is governed
to a considerable extent by the nature of the soil and the
amount of moisture near the surface. On warm, light soil,
corn should be planted deeper than where it is cold and heavy.
Again, the depth of planting will be governed largely by the
time of planting. In early planting, only the surface soil is
warm enough to germinate the kernels. The subsoil is still
wet and cold. Later, when the surface soil has become
warmer and dryer, the seed may be planted deeper.

In planting corn, the fact must be kept in mind that for
quick germination plenty of air and warmth are just as
essential as moisture. Nine years out of ten there is enough
moisture in the soil to sprout the corn, although the season
of 1913 was an exception. It was then necessary to plant
about four inches deep in Central Illinois in order to provide
sufficient moisture. While we planted over four inches deep
the season mentioned, we used furrow openers on the planter
runners so that by throwing out a furrow it was not necessary
to cover the seed with more than two inches of dirt. We
always use furrow openers on our planters and vary the
depth of the furrow according to the condition of the ground,
but in no case do we cover the seed with more than two
inches of dirt. About one and one-half inches over the seed
seems to bring the best results on our brown silt prairie soil.

Repeated experiments have proved that plants cannot
be made to send their roots deep into the soil by planting deep.



If the object is to fortify the plant against dry weather, it
is best to plant the seed in a furrow and then gradually
cultivate the furrow full of soil as the plants grow.

In an experiment at the Illinois Experiment Station, cover-
ing a period of five years, corn was planted at depths ranging
from one inch to seven inches. The greatest yields resulted
from planting one inch deep.




















^ Illinois









NOTE: The above table -was taken from Bulletin No. 31 Illinois Station.
The soil at the experiment station is a deep retentive prairie soil.

Too deep planting is the rule rather than the exception,
especially in the case of early planting when the ground
is still cold. We know of ten cases where poor stands are
the result of too deep planting where one case is the result
of too shallow planting. If it is necessary to get the seed
into the ground, use furrow openers which will cover at a
uniform depth, besides throwing all the clods out of the


The advantage of drilling corn is that one kernel is
dropped in a place. Standing singly as it does, each plant
has a fairer chance both- below and above the ground to
develop normally and produce well. It requires less care


to drill than to check. This is especially true of timber-
land that is covered with stumps.

Drilled com is not so liable to blow down in heavy sum-
mer winds. We believe, however, that this advantage is
fully offset by the freer circulation of air through fields
planted in hills. A free circulation of air around the corn

(Courtesy John Deere riow Co.)



plants in August has a tendency to prevent firing. We

sometimes drill sod fields if the ground is free from weeds.

Three styles of modern planters are used in planting corn

in hills: the round hole, or hill drop, the cumulative edge

drop, and the kernel spaced edge drop. All of these are

operated with a wire to check off the kernels in the hills.

Round Hole or Hill Drop: This is the least complicated

and the easiest to keep in repair of the check-rower planters.

The round holes in the plates are large enough to admit all


the kernels for one hill in each hole. Another advantage of
this planter is the fact that the hole, being so large, accom-
modates kernels of varying sizes. This planter is the best
for poorly graded seed; but in. our opinion poorly graded
seed has no place in good farming.

Cumulative Edge Drop: The edge drop planter is a later
invention than the hill drop and is very popular in the Corn
Belt, since by using uniformly graded seed it will plant with
a greater degree of accuracy than the older style hill drop.
This style of planter has a number of smaller holes around the
outside edge of the plate. Each hole or slot holds just one
grain which is admitted on edge. The plate, revolving almost
continually, makes a quarter of one revolution for each hill
planted. When the proper number of kernels have been
counted out they are checked off by the check wire. Since
graded corn varies less in thickness than in any other dimen-
sion, it can easily be seen that the edge drop planter should
plant graded corn with a higher degree of accuracy than the
hill drop planter, or the cumulative drop planter, which
take the kernel flat.

We have used several different makes of cumulative edge
drop planters on our farms during the last fifteen years.
Until recently the weak point seemed to be in the dog which
causes the plate to turn exactly one-quarter revolution while
the planter is moving from one wire link to another. This
defect has been overcome and today an edge drop planter
with graded corn, in the hands of an intelligent driver, is
almost as dependable as a gang plow.

Kernel Spaced Checking: A new method of planting corn
is known as kernel spaced checking. This method requires
a special planter which has been gotten out in the last few
years. In kernel spaced checking the kernels are placed at
.the corners of a five-inch square or triangle instead of being
bunched, as in other methods. Since each stalk stands singly


as in drilled corn, the advocates of this method claim for
it all the advantages of drilling and checking without the dis-
advantages of either.

For the farmer who plants three or four grains in one
hill, kernel spaced checking would perhaps increase the yield,
unless there was more of a tendency to sucker than when the
kernels were bunched. Since we never plant more than two
and three kernels in a hill, we do not think that the advan-
tage to be gained, would justify us in going to the expense
of trying out this new method. A government bulletin by C.
P. Hartley, entitled "A More Profitable Corn Planting
Method," deals with the subject of kernel spaced checking
at length.

The chief advantage of planting in hills is that the check-
ing enables the corn to be cross cultivated and kept free
from weeds and the entire soil surface kept in good condi-
tion without the expensive labor of hoeing. Checking has
continued to grow in popularity until today nine-tenths of
the corn in the Corn Belt is planted in hills. Experimental
work thus far conducted indicates that it makes but little
difference, so far as yield is concerned, whether corn is grown
in drills or in hills, provided the drilled corn is kept clean.
Our own experience has satisfied us that on average corn
land checked corn will outyield drilled corn; while on rich
blue-grass or alfalfa sod, where as much as three grains would
be planted in a hill, if checked, the drilled corn would make
a slightly better showing, granting that clean culture be main-


Straight rows and even checking mean better cultivation
and larger yields. Crooked rows are usually the result of
carelessness or indifference, although the planter is often



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to blame for uneven checking. Uneven checking inay be due
to several causes. If the wire is too tight the planter checks
too soon ; if too loose it checks too late. To check true the
driver should form the habit of always drawing the wire to
a uniform tightness. While the slack should be kept out
of the wire the driver should never form the habit of putting
the point of the stake in the ground and using it as a lever
to tighten the wire. This practice makes the wire too tight
for even checking besides causing undue wear on both the
wire and planter. If the planter checks too soon the shoes
or runners should be pulled back. On all makes of planters
w r ith which we are familiar, there is a place on the tongue,
(where it is bolted to the planter), to make this adjustment.
If the checking is only a trifle "out" it may be corrected
by shortening or lengthening the breast straps by which
the tongue is raised or lowered.


Disc furrow openers consist of small frames and two discs
each. The frames are fastened to the shoes of the planter
so that the discs are on each side of the runner. The bottom
of the discs are from one to two inches above the bottom
of the runners, depending on how deep the corn is to be
covered. The purpose of these discs is to throw out a furrow
from two to five inches in depth. The corn is planted in
the bottom of this furrow.

We have used furrow openers on nine-tenths of our plant-
ing for over five years, and can say without hesitation that

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Online LibraryWilliam Thomas AinsworthPractical corn culture, written especially for the corn belt farmers → online text (page 2 of 11)