5 ways that farmers prepare for planting fields and how they can relate to the everyday home gardener.

Spring is here! Which means that it’s time to start planting. Here in Illinois farmers are preparing thousands of acres to be planted with corn and soybeans, while gardeners are preparing a home garden to be filled with a variety of vegetables.  While it may seem like they have drastically different things to do to get their land ready to plant, they have the same end goal: to have a successful harvest. Here are a few things that farmers prepare to plant and how it can relate to gardening.

3-30-17plante 21. Getting equipment ready.  Getting the right equipment for the job is a vital first step for planting, and you must make sure all the equipment is in working order before you begin planting.  Farmers have heavy duty equipment they use to plant their acres.  Some farmers choose to use a soil finisher, which is explained later in the article. The next thing farmers need is a tractor with a planter for the actual planting. Farmers that plant crops are likely covering hundreds to thousands of acres so a tractor is necessary. Something farmers and gardeners would both need is a water source for their plants.  Most crop farmers get by on rainfall, but in some areas, special wells and large irrigation systems are used to get the appropriate amount of water to the plants.  Gardeners often must have a constant water source for their plants too, like a hose or sprinkler. Farmers usually get their machinery out of the sheds and start checking parts and repairing what needs to be repaired weeks before planting actually begins. Some other things gardeners may use that farmers don’t are a spade to dig the hole or cages for certain plants.3-30-17soil finisher (2)

2. Some farmers choose to use a soil finisher, which is a device attached to a tractor that makes the soil soft and workable, which allows more nutrients to reach the seed. A soil finisher would be very similar to a tiller, which gardeners may use to work their ground. Farmers don’t have to use a soil finisher, but gardeners typically do use a tiller since they do most of the planting by hand and need soft soil to work.

3. Deciding on the right seed. Farmers put many factors into choosing the right seed and some of them can become very in-depth. Agronomists and others who work in the crop science industry spend a huge amount of time and research to create different varieties of crops for farmers to choose from. Farmers would choose a seed that would have a high yield, or the amount of crop that will be harvested, plant durability, and a plant that will produce large seed pods or ears of corn. Farmers also choose what they will plant depending on what climate they are in. A gardener’s way of picking seed should be the same, they should make sure they pick a sturdy seed that will grow in the climate and area they are planting in.

4. When it comes to planting, timing is crucial in farming and gardening. Each plant as a set temperature and time of year that it grows best in so it is the farmer’s job to know those specifications. Farmers also choose when to plant by looking at how long it takes the plant to reach maturity, or how long until it can be harvested. Gardeners should time their planting in the same way, by knowing where, when, and how their plant will grow best.

3-30-17aerial view of planting

3-30-17corncomingup5. To create the perfect environment for growing, fertilizing the soil is something that gardeners and farmers should be taking care of and thinking about all year around. You also have to know if your crop needs a certain type of fertilizer. An example is how farmers rotate fields between corn and soybeans each year, and soybeans take almost all the nitrogen out of the soil. Nitrogen is crucial for corn to grow so anhydrous is applied before planting corn because anhydrous ammonia is rich in nitrogen and applying it ensures corn has the levels it needs to grow. Farmers may also use manure spread on their fields to add extra fertilizer as well all year around. Gardeners can use manure and chemicals as well.  Another source of fertilizer for gardeners is decomposing organic matter.  This can come from dead leaves, or other similar materials.

Jacey Wickenhauser
Illinois State University

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