Seeding Practices for Michigan Crops (E2107)

Seeding Practices for Michigan Crops (E2107)

Seed is one of the most important inputs purchased for crop production system. Choosing the variety, using high quality seed and planting your crops at the time, rate and depth, you can have a major impact on the productivity and profitability of your crop

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Seed is one of the most important inputs you purchase for any crop production system. By choosing the proper variety, by using high quality seed and by planting your crops at the proper time, rate and depth, you can have a major impact on the productivity and profitability of your crop enterprise. This bulletin describes seed quality characteristics and presents information you can use when deciding on seeding practices for Michigan crops. Information on selecting varieties and overall crop management can be found in greater detail in other Cooperative Extension Service publications. Contact your local county Extension Service office for additional information.

Seed Quality

High quality seed is important to obtain the desired plant population, high yield and high quality in the harvested crop. High quality seed means high germination (usually above 90 percent); absence of noxious weed seeds; and relative freedom from other crop seeds, diseased seeds, weed seeds should be of uniform size for accurate planting, especially with standard planter plates. CERTIFIED SEED is the most reliable source of high quality seed.

Planting information presented here is based on the use of high quality seed. Never plant seed of unknown variety or doubtful quality. If you must plant substandard seed in emergency situations, increase your seeding rate by the difference between the actual germination and 85-90 percent represented by acceptable quality seed.

Plant population

An optimum plant populations essential for high yields and net return. A very high population can result in excessive plant competition for water and nutrients, sterility in corn, lodging in soybeans and excessive seed cost. A below-optimum population can result in inefficient use of water, nutrients and light, and thus lower yields and lower net return.

Plant population or seeding rate is influenced by row width, crop species, soil and climatic variables, and crop use. (See Tables 1-6 to determine optimum planting rates for various crops grown in Michigan.)

Seeding Rates for Row Crops

Seeding rates for field crops are generally expressed in pounds or bushels per acre. Because of the large number of varieties and hybrids available and the great variation in seed size, other methods of expressing seeding rates are usually more appropriate. Seeds per foot of row is a better designation for soybeans (see Table 1) and field beans (see Table 2). “Inches between seeds” (Table 3) can be used to determine proper plant populations for hybrid corn.

Table 1. Suggested planting rates for soybeans in rows.*

Row width (in.)

Seeds/ft. of row**

Approx. lbs/acre***

28-30

7-9

45-60

18-20

6-8

50-70

14-16

4-5

60-80

7-10

2.5-4

70-100

*Based on 90% germination; allows for one rotary hoeing and good standability.
**Use the higher number of the range for the wider row width.
***Pounds per acre will vary with the variety because of differences in seed size. Use low rates for small-seeded varieties, high rates for large-seeded varieties.

Table 2. Suggested planting rates for field beans.

 

Commercial Dry Bean Classics

Navy and Black Turtle

Kidney and Cranberry

Pinto and Great Northern

Yelloweye and Marrow

Row Width 28-30”

 

 

 

 

Seeds/ft. of row

4 to 5

3 to 4

3 to 4

3 to 4

App. Lb/acre

40-45

70-75

50-55

60-65

Row Width 20-22”

 

 

 

 

Seeds/ft. of row

4 to 5

2 to 3

2 to 3

2 to 3

App. Lb/acre

45-50

75-80

55-60

65-70

Row Width 14-16”

 

 

 

 

Seeds/ft. of row

3 to 4

2 to 3

2 to 3

2 to 3

App. Lb/acre

50-55

80-90

70-80

80-90

Row Width 7-10”

 

 

 

 

Seeds/ft. of row

2 to 3

1 to 2

2 to 3

2 to 3

App. Lb/acre

60-65

100-120

90-100

90-100

Only upright varieties of dry beans are recommended for production in row widths narrower than 20 inches.

Table 3. Approximate number of seeds per acre at varying row widths and spacings in the row.

Seed spacing in the row (in.)

Row width (in.)

7

14

20

24

28

30

32

36

38

40

1

896,000

448,000

314,000

261,000

224,000

209,000

196,000

174,000

165,000

157,000

1.5

598,000

299,000

209,000

174,000

149,000

139,000

131,000

116,100

110,000

104,000

2

448,000

224,000

155,000

131,000

112,000

104,000

89,000

87,100

82,500

78,400

3

298,000

149,300

104,000

87,100

74,800

69,700

65,400

58,000

55,000

52,300

4

224,000

112,000

78,400

65,300

56,000

52,200

49,000

43,500

41,300

39,200

5

179,000

89,600

62,700

52,300

44,900

41,800

39,200

34,800

33,000

31,400

6

149,000

74,700

52,400

43,600

37,300

34,800

32,700

29,000

27,500

26,100

7

217,000

63,500

44,400

37,000

31,700

29,600

27,800

24,700

23,400

22,200

8

112,000

56,000

39,100

32,700

28,000

26,100

24,500

21,800

20,600

19,600

9

99,300

49,700

34,800

29,000

24,800

23,100

21,700

19,300

18,300

17,400

10

89,600

44,800

31,400

26,100

22,400

20,900

19,600

17,400

16,500

15,700

11

81,400

40,700

28,500

23,700

20,400

19,000

17,800

15,800

15,000

14,300

12

74,700

37,300

26,100

21,800

18,700

17,400

16,300

14,500

13,800

13,100

Using these designations allows the same seeding rate to be used for each variety, regardless of seed size or grade. To calculate total seed requirements, you must know the number of seeds per pound.

Table 4. Suggested corn plant populations.*

Yield goal (bu./acre)

Plants/acre

70-80

14,000-16,000

90-120

18,000-19,000

130-200

20,000-23,000

(In southern Michigan, if corn is planted by May 1, use a seed population 15 to 20 percent higher than the desired population. For May 1-20 planting, use 10-15 percent more seed than desired plants. After May 20, use 10 percent more seed.)

Table 5. Approximate numbers of seed per unit in good quality bean seed.

Type

Seeds/lb.

Seeds/cwt or bu.

Navy bean

2,200

220,00/cwt

Cranberry bean

900

90,000/cwt

Red kidney bean

800

80,000/cwt

Black turtle bean

2,200

200,000/cwt

Pinto bean

1,200

120,000/cwt

Yelloweye bean

950

95,000/cwt

Soybean, small seed

3,000

180,000/bu

Soybean, medium-sized seed

2,600

156,000/bu

Soybean, large seed

2,200

132,000/bu

Seeding Rates for Solid Seeded Crops

Seeding rates for forages and small grains (Table 6) are given in pounds or bushels per acre. The ranges listed account for variable planting conditions and seed size. There are fewer large-sized seeds than small-sized seeds in a bushel or pound. Therefore, it takes a greater weight or volume of large-seeded varieties per acre than of small-seeded varieties to achieve similar populations.

Table 6. Weight per bushel, seeds per pound and recommended seeding rate, depth and planting date for Michigan crops.

Crop

Weight per bu. (lb)

No. seeds per lb

Seeding rate per acre (lb)

Planting depth (in)

Planting dates

Remarks

Forage legumes for forage, pasture, greenchop, green manure and cover crop

Alfalfa

60

220,000

12-16 alone or with a grass

¼- ½

With oats or barley in Apr.-May. Clear seeded in Apr.-mid-Aug. Do not seed after early Aug. Do not seed after early Aug. in N. Mich.

Seeding alone with herbicides (clear seeding) in spring preferred. Also does well on well drained mucks with bromegrass

Red clover

60

260,000

8-12 alone or with 2-4 lb timothy

¼- ½

With oats or alone in spring.

Two cuts for hay use.

Mammoth clover

60

260,000

8-12 alone

¼- ½

Feb.-mid-Apr.

Broadcast seeded in winter wheat for green manure plowdown.

Birdsfoot trefoil

60

370,000

5-6 alone or with grass or with 4-8 lb red clover in UP

¼- ½

Preferably in Apr.-May with herbicides (clear seeded). Can be seeded with oats or barley in spring or alone by Aug. 1 in S. Mich., July 25 in N. Mich.

Use double amount of slurry inoculant. Must remove small grain early as silage, hay or pasture.

Ladino clover

60

860,000

1-2 alone or with grass

¼- ½

With oats or barley in spring or Aug. 1-15

Use ¼ lb per acre of seed in alfalfa-brome mixtures

Sweet clover

60

250,000

12-15 alone

¼- ½

With oats or barley in spring.

Used primarily as a green manure crop.

Alsike clover

60

680,000

3-5 in grass mixture

¼- ½

With oats or barley in spring.

Use in lowland pasture mixtures

Crownvetch

60

140,000

8-12 alone

¼- ½

Clear seed Apr.-June 1 alone with herbicides

Use double amount of slurry inoculant. Scarify seed. No companion crop.

Perennial grasses for forage, pasture, greenchop, cover crop and turf

Smooth bromegrass

14

135,000

3-5 in legume-grass mixture or 12-15 alone

½-1

Spring-Aug. 15 or Nov. 1-20 alone on muck soil

Normally seeded with alfalfa or on mucks dry enough for corn.

Orchardgrass

14

590,000

12-15 alone or maximum of 2 in legume-grass mixture

¼- ½

Spring-Aug. 15 or Nov. 1-20 alone on muck soil.

Normally seeded with alfalfa or on mucks drier than for reed canarygrass. Use late maturing varieties.

Timothy

45

1,230,000

2-4 in legume-grass mixture or 8 alone.

¼- ½

Spring or Aug. 1-15

Normally seeded with alfalfa, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil

Reed canary grass

44-48

550,000

6 alone

¼- ½

Spring-Sept. 15 or Nov. 1-20

On wet soils; especially on very wet muck soils

Kentucky bluegrass

 14-28

2,200,000

15-25 or 5-10 for pasture

¼- ½

Early spring or Aug. 15-Sept. 15 or No. 1-20.

August planting preferred. For turf, use 1 lb/1,000ft2

Fescue, tall

24

225,000

15 alone

¼- ½

Spring-Sept. 15 or Nov. 1-20

Exercise pasture. For coarse turf, playgrounds, etc., 2-4 lb./1,000ft2

Fescue, red or creeping

15-40

545,000

15-30 alone

¼- ½

Spring-Sept. 15 or Nov. 1-20

Will tolerate shaded conditions. Use for spring cover crop or turf. For turf, use 1-2 lb/1,000ft2

Redtop

14

5,000,000

2-3 in grass mixture

¼- ½

Spring-Sept. 15 or Nov 1-20

Normally not used. Adapted to moist soils in grass mixtures.

Annual grasses for forage, pasture, greenchop, cover crop and turf

Sorghum Sudangrass hybrid

-

15,000-20,000

30 broadcast

1-2

May 1-June 15 in S. Mich.; June 1-15 in N. Mich.

Greenchop or pasture

Sudangrass

40

55,000

20-30 broadcast

1-2

May 1-June 15 in S. Mich.; June 1-15

Summer pasture or hay

Sorghum (forage)

50

15,000-20,000

6-10 in 20- to 40-inch rows

1-2

May 1-25 in S. Mich.; June 1-15 in N. Mich.

Plant in rows similar to corn. Cut once for silage

Rape, cabbage-turnip crosses

50

157,000

4-6 broadcast

1

April-early Aug.

Sheep pasture after herbicide-suppressed grass sod or after small grain. May need herbicide after small grain.

Millet, common, pearl, hog, Japanese

50

220,000

20-30 broadcast

½-1

May 1-June 20

Use for greenchop, hay or silage

Ryegrass, domestic

24

250,000

10 broadcast

½

At last cultivation of corn. Aug. 15-Sept. 15 for turf.

As cover crop; improved types available for lawns. 2-5 lb/1,000 ft2. Use for pasture, silage or hay.

Oats and peas

 

 

2-3 bu, mix in equal amounts

1-2

April

For silage or hay.

Domestic ryegrass and sweet clover

 

 

10-ryegrass, 10-sw. clover

½

Last cultivation of corn.

Cover crop.

Oats, barley, triticale: refer to cash and feed crops section.

Cash and feed crops

Canola (spring)

60

142,400

5-6

½

Soon as possible in spring-May 1.

 

Canola (winter)

60

156,960

5-6

½

Aug. 25-Sept. 5.

 

Corn (field)

56

1,300-2,200

10-16 (18,400-26,400 kernels)

1 ½-2 ½

April 20-May 25.

Seeding rate depends on seed grade, soil productivity and time of planting. Increase seeding rate under irrigation.

Corn (pop)

56

3,000-4,000

3-5

1-2

May 5-June 1.

Seeds per lb depends on type.

Soybeans

60

2,000-3,000

See Table 1

1 ½- 2

May 1-July 1.

Earlier planting recommended. Narrow rows have been shown to produce higher yields.

Field beans (navy)

60

2,200-2,400

40-65

2

May 25-June 15, preferably June 1-5.

See Table 2 for detailed seeding rates.

Field beans (black turtle soup)

60

2,200

40-65

2

June 1-15.

See Table 2 for detailed seeding rates.

Field beans (pinto)

60

1,200

50-100

2

June 1-15.

See Table 2 for detailed seeding rates.

Field beans (kidney)

60

800-900

70-120

2

June 1-15.

See Table 2 for detailed seeding rates.

Field beans (cranberry and yelloweye)

60

850-1,000

60-100

2

June 1-15.

See Table 2 for detailed seeding rates.

Wheat (spring)

60

12,000

90

1-2

Soon as possible in spring

Not suitable for milling purposes.

Wheat (winter)

60

12,000

90-150

1-2

Sept. 13-Oct. 20 in S. Mich.; Aug. 10-30 in N. Mich. And UP

Plant after fly-free date plus 10 days in lower Mich.

Sugar beets

 

31,000-57,000

1-1 ¼

¾-1 ¼

April 10-May 15.

Space seed 5-5 ¼ inches in rows.

Potatoes

60

 

17-20 cwt

3-4

May 1-June 1.

Use 1 ¾ oz seed piece. Space 8-10 inches apart (excerpt Russet Burbank and Norchip, which should be 10-12 inches in 34-inches rows.

Oats

32

13,000

64-80

1-2

Soon as possible in spring—by May 15 in S. Mich., by June 1 in N. Mich.

 

Barley (spring)

48

13,000

96

1-2

Soon as possible in spring—by May 15 in S. Mich., by June 1 in N. Mich.

 

Barley (winer)

48

13,000

96-120

1-2

Sept. 10-30.

 

Rye

56

18,000

84-112

1-2

Sept. 1-Nov. 1

May be planted earlier for green manure of for winter cover in corn (in August)

Sorghum (grain)

56

15,000-20,000

4-6 (6-8 plants/ft in 30-inch rows)

1-2

May 15-June 10

Plant in rows. Grow only south of Bay City-Muskegon line.

Sunflower

24-30

3,000-9,00

3-7 (16,500-23,000 seeds)

1-2

May 1-25

 

Buchwheat

48

20,000

45-60

1-2

June-early July

For grain and summer green manure.

Millet (grain)

50

80,000

10-15

½-1

June 1-30

Emergency crop.

Vetch

60

21,000

15-20

1-2

Sept. 1-Nov. 1.

Seed with rye.

Spelt

30-40

 

50-100

1-2

Sept. 10-Oct. 10.

 

Tritcales

45-50

 

50

1-2

Sept. 10-Oct. 15 or Apr. 1-30, if spring type

 

 

If climatic, soil and fertility conditions are optimal and you are using high quality seed (high germination and purity), you can use the lower seeding rates listed in Table 6. Less than optimal conditions often require the higher rates

Seeding methods also affect seeding rate. Band seedings with fertilization and use of press wheels give best results when establishing forages. When planting a grass with a legume, you can vary the seeding rate of the grass to obtain more or less grass in the stand.

Small grains intended for use as silage or green chop should be seeded at 1.5 times the recommended rates for grain. If you are using small grains as companion (nurse) crops with forages, reduce the recommended seeding rate for the small grains by one-fourth to one-third.

Planter Considerations

Depending on your tillage system, your planter or grain drill should be equipped with the proper combination of weight (down pressure), coulters, furrow openers, closing device, pesticide applicators (for insecticide and /or herbicides) and fertilizer applicators. Replace all worn parts and align all planting units and accessories properly. Then calibrate the planting unit for the desired seeding rate and seeding depth. Seeding rate will vary, depending on the size and shape of the seed planted. Do not rely on the charts provided with the planter or drill—they serve only as a guide.

A drill can be calibrated by the following method:

1. Open seed tubes from four units of the drill and attach plastic bags or tubes to catch the seed. Each drill unit will vary, so sampling from a number of them and averaging will give a better estimate of the seeding rate than sampling from a single unit.

2. Set the gear drives and settings to those recommended by the manufacturer for the crop to be planted. Be sure the correct seed cups are in place for the desired crop.

3. Drive the planter or drill a known distance (e.g., 100 feet).

4. Measure the weight of the collected seed. Use the following equation to calculate the seeding rate.

5. Record the drill settings and the seeding rates calculated from the sample. If the seeding rate was lower than desired, move to the next higher seeding rate calibration falls between two settings on the drill, use the higher setting to avoid under-seeding and be sure to record the settings.

The planter or drill should also be adjusted for seeding depth. Penetration into the soil will be quite different under no-till conditions than for a tilled field. It will also vary by soil type and soil moisture. Each drill varies in how depth settings are determined. Through trial and error, determine settings for proper seed placement for residue, tillage and soil moisture conditions in your field.

Calculating Seed Requirements for Desired Stands

Row crops, especially corn, are typically overplanted to compensate for seed and seedling morality. Under average conditions of moisture and temperature, 10 to 15 percent seed and seedling mortality may be expected even with high quality seed. On organic soils, or with very early planting on mineral soils, or with very early planting on mineral soils, seedling losses may reach or exceed 20 percent. These principles can also be applied to other row crops.

For hybrid corn, a grower may want a final population of 20,000 plants per acre in 30-inch rows. Allowing about 15 percent extra seed to account for seed and seeding mortality makes the seed requirement 23,000 seeds per acre (1.15 times 20,000). In Table 1, under the 30-inch row spacing, the closest number of kernels to 23,000 is 23,100. This occurs when seed is spaced 9 inches apart in 30-inch rows. One bag with 80,000 kernels will plant 3.5 acres.

Another method of calculating seed requirements, without the use of Table 1, is as follows: Assume you wish to plant 50 acres of a large-seeded soybean variety in 30-inch rows at the rate of 10 seeds per foot of row. Imagine, then, that you have a “long acre,” that is, one row 30 inches wide. Such arrow would need to be 17,424 feet long (43,560 square feet per acre divided by 2.5 feet). With 10 beans per foot in this “long row,” you would need 174,240 seeds per acre. According to Table 5, the number of seeds per pound of a large-seeded variety is 2,200. For 50 acres, multiply 174,240 times 50 and divide by 2,200. Seed required = 3,960 pounds or 66 bushels.

Planting Speed May Affect Plant Stand

Seed spacing in row crops is affected by planting speed. For many corn planters, a speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour is optimum. At higher speeds, spacing of seeds is less uniform and there is a tendency for skipping and bunching. Newer planters are more accurate at higher speeds. Use of planter plates with more cells per plate will improve planting accuracy at higher speeds. Plateless planters may also allow higher speed without sacrificing plating accuracy. Under any condition, check spacing and number of seeds per acre or foot of row, as well as planting depth and fertilizer placement.

Planting speed does not affect the rate of small-seeded legumes or grasses in modern drills with fluted seed delivery units, which deliver accurately measured seed amounts regardless of speed of travel.

Planting Depth

Recommended planting depths for various crops are listed in Table 6. Planting depth is affected by seed size, soil texture, moisture and temperature. Crops planted in dry, coarse-textured (sandy) soils may require deeper planting. Soils that are cold, fine textured (clay) and /or wet may require shallower planting. Seeds of forage crops are typically very small and can emerge only from a shallow depth, generally less than ½ inch.  Therefore, take extreme care with planting depth. Culti-packer seeders and band seeders followed by press wheels or a culti-packer help ensure shallow seed placement. Check sod seeder drills carefully for seed depth.

Planting Date

Dates of planting for various crops are given in Table 6. Planting dates vary each year because of weather differences. Farther north, the calendar date of planting is normally later with spring-seeded crops and earlier with fall-seeded crops. Proximity to the Great Lakes also affects temperatures and planting dates.

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