Companion Planting: The Magic of Corn, Beans and Squash

By Jeff Poppen

Companion planting is an important part of any gardener or farmer’s planning.

Recent discoveries in quantum physics, microbiology and ecology verify something gardeners have long known. Everything in nature is related. There are no solid lines between the plants’ roots, the soil and the bacteria and fungi tying it all together. To help understand why garden crops do or do not thrive, we are led into the enigmatic field of companion planting.

Just as we work and feel best around our friends, plants will grow better in their preferred company. Although the reasons may be obscure, a lot of observation and a little intuition can reveal mutual attractions and aversions. The garden teaches us the value of old-time practices, fresh experiments and keeping our eyes open.

Companion planting
In the spring garden lettuce, carrots, peas, beets and radishes all grow well together.

Following the advice of Steiner, Albrecht, Howard, Rodale, and others, we build up a live soil humus with an inherent microbial intelligence. Native Americans did not have to do all that reading; they simply did not plow, compact, or put chemicals on their soils in the first place. Right off the bat, they taught us companion planting with the “three sisters” — corn, beans and squash.

Corn belongs to the grass family. Its shallow, fibrous root system requires extra nitrogen. Beans, on the other hand, have a deep taproot and a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria that accumulate nitrogen. Squash grow well in the shade of the beans, which climb up the corn stalks. The big squash leaves provide shade that keeps the soil moist and the weeds from sprouting. An Iroquois corn patch produced three times as much grain per acre as European wheat farmers were getting, along with extra vegetables to boot.

In the spring garden lettuce, carrots, peas, beets and radishes all grow well together. Although carrots are companion plants with peas as well as onions, peas do not grow well next to onions. The pea and bean families do not like the onion family, which includes garlic, leeks and shallots. Radishes repel cucumber beetles and are harvested quickly.

Cabbage grows well with beets and potatoes; they can be planted together in early spring. We grow kale and Chinese cabbages in the fall for several reasons: they like cooler weather, and are not bothered by bugs as much then.

In our crop rotation, potatoes follow a grass or clover sod because untilled land has more fungal activity underground. Plenty of compost and loose soil keep the potatoes from attracting beetles. After a season of cultivating, the microbial domination has shifted in favor of bacteria. This is well suited for the cabbage family. Companion planting is related to crop rotation, since certain crops prepare the soil for the next one.

Potatoes and beans planted together help to repel each others’ pesky beetles. However, they are planted in different seasons, so we do not use this particular combination. We plant alternate rows of bush beans and cucumbers. Along with their mutual attraction, the timing works well. The quick-maturing beans yield a few pickings before the cucumber vines invade their rows and hide the future pickles in their shade.

Cucumbers also like dill in the garden and in the jar. Similarly, basil and tomatoes grow and taste good together. Herbs add a whole new dimension, aroma and beauty to the garden. They have also long been observed to be good companion plants. Parsley and her sisters in the Umbelliferae family have blooms that supply nectar to beneficial insects. Fennel and wormwood are the herbal exceptions, as other plants generally do not like them. When folks see flowers in the garden, they often think we are trying to keep bugs away. Nothing could be further from the truth. We love flowers because they attract insects, most of which are beneficial. Marigolds excrete a toxin for certain nematodes, but flowers are grown for the birds and the bees.

Companion Planting, by Helen Phibrick and Richard Gregg, was published in 1966. It became a source of conversation and experimentation in my parents’ organic gardens. It makes sense that plant species will show signs of sympathy and antipathy with each other. The garden combinations of flowers, herbs and vegetables are endless. Therefore, we must consider this a recent science wide open for exploration. Every garden and every year is a new opportunity to marvel at and unearth nature’s mysteries, wisdom and interconnectedness.

By Jeff Poppen. Biodynamic farmer Jeff Poppen lives, works and writes at Long Hungry Creek Farm in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. For more information visit

This article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

How to Reduce Transplant Shock on Your Farm

BY ALLEN PHILO for Acres U.S.A. magazine

Avoiding transplant shock when transplanting starters from the greenhouse to the field is a key sustainable farming method.

The time of year has once again arrived when we will be taking plants out of the greenhouse and transplanting them into the field. This can be one of the most stressful experiences plants undergo as they are taken from the warm and sheltered environment of the greenhouse and placed into a field where they are at the mercy of the elements. Plants will almost always incur some amount of damage to their roots as well as their leaves during this process. All of these various stresses are grouped under the general name of “transplant shock.” If plants undergo too much transplant shock, it can leave them open to disease, pest pressure, and lower yield potential. But what can we do to help our plants through this period of increased stress?

Transplant shock is really the sum of all the stresses plants experience during the move from flat to field. In order to look at how we can help the plant through this time, we’ll divide these stresses into three different categories: environmental changes, physical damage, and nutritional deficiencies.

avoid transplant shock
Avoiding transplant shock: An open show transplanter in use as the crew sets out cabbage in the field.

Most farmers help their plants acclimatize to these moisture and temperature changes by putting them through a period of  “hardening  off,”  especially in the spring. This is done by taking the crop out of the greenhouse and placing it in a new location where the plant is exposed to air movement and greater temperature changes, but is still sheltered from weather extremes. This can be accomplished by locating the plants in an area where they are open to moderate breezes and lower daytime temperatures, but can be covered to shelter them from strong winds or nighttime frosts. This limited exposure signals them to strengthen their main growing stalks to cope with wind and change the  chemistry of their leaves in order to withstand the lower temperatures.

To help transplants acclimatize to changes in soil temperature and biology and avoid transplant shock, there are several things we can do. The use of black plastic mulch in the field will warm the soil and is especially useful when it comes to cucurbits and solanaceous crops as it assists with weed control. Putting molasses into the transplant water can help too, as this will stimulate soil biology which in turn will raise the soil temperature.

The second and third categories of transplant stress, physical damage and nutrient deficiencies, are closely linked. Physical damage is unavoidable to a certain degree when transplanting. Care should be taken to avoid breaking any leaves or causing bruising as these injuries can become vectors for disease. The roots, however, not the upper part of the plant, often sustain the most damage during transplantation. Roots uptake nutrients mainly through their delicate root hairs and their growing tips, both of which are very susceptible to damage. This can lead to the plant experiencing a nutrient deficiency shortly after transplant due to its decreased uptake ability. This nutrient deficiency occurs at the same time the plant is trying to regenerate its root system and adjust to its new environment. This type of root damage can also happen easily with bare root transplants because in the process of removing the soil from the roots, more of the fragile root hairs can be damaged than when the transplants are in plug form.

Aiding Plants To Avoid Transplant Shock

Helping the plant through the transplant stress is essential and can be accomplished a number of different ways. One way is to stimulate the plant to grow with natural growth hormones. Another is to provide the plant with a supply of easily absorbable macro- and micronutrients. Kelp is an excellent source of natural growth hormones and micronutrients. During transplantation a liquid kelp extract works best as it can easily  be added to water. It is also important to address macronutrients including phosphorus, calcium, potassium and nitrogen. All of these nutrients are involved in the formation of new tissue, and giving your plant an available supply of these nutrients will help it repair damage at a faster pace.

broccoli leaves
A broccoli plant in the greenhouse. This plant shows no signs of nutrient deficiency

It is important to make sure that your plant is not already deficient in these nutrients before they go into the field.   It is surprising how many plants have some phosphorus deficiency, noticeable by a purpling of the leaves, or a nitrogen deficiency, noticeable by yellowing or chlorotic growth, before going into the field. Plants deficient at transplant are at a further disadvantage since they are already struggling to make up for these nutrients as well as trying to repair damage. Make sure that you are using high quality potting mix for  your seedlings to avoid this problem. Even with a good potting mix plants can become stressed, and it may be necessary to top dress the flats with a compost mix or fertilizer or you can inject liquid fertilizers into the for their needs. Special attention should be paid to plants that are past their ideal transplant date. Look for the noticeable signs of deficiency, and keep your plants well supplied with nutrition.

One of the best ways to decrease transplant shock is to supply extra nutrients and biostimulants at the time of transplant.  There are several ways to accomplish this. One is to drench the plants while they are still in their flats. This can be done by mixing a large dose of nutrients into the final watering, or by mixing up a batch of “transplant soup” in a bin and submerging the flats in the solution until the soil is saturated. It is okay to have some of the “soup” get on the foliage of the plant as this will simply act as a foliar feeding. When dealing with bare-root transplants soaking the roots of the plants in a weak solution can be done instead. Another way to deliver this “soup” is to mix it into the transplant water. This works well, but depending on the transplanter, it can leave a lot  of  the solution in between the plants where it is not as effective. However it will help to stimulate soil biology, especially if molasses is used in the solution. Using the two systems of drenching flats and adding products to the transplant water works well, as it both provides the nutrition your plants need and stimulates soil life.

Transplanting is a very stressful time for the plants.  They are put into conditions very different than what they are used to and are exposed to a wide range of stresses they have not encountered previously. The plants can also suffer damage during transplantation, especially to the root system, and this can lead to a period of nutrient deficiency as the plant tries to repair itself and as its ability to find nutrients has been decreased. All of these setbacks can weaken the plant and open it to disease and pest pressures, as well as decrease overall yield potential. By using conscientious cultural practices, stimulating root growth and soil life and giving the plant easily available forms of nutrients, we can help our plants pull through transplant shock faster. This in turn can lead to an increase in our plants’ ability to fend off disease and pests and result in improved yields.

Allen Philo has worked as the field  operations manager on a large organic vegetable farm, and is  currently the specialty  crop  consultant  for Midwestern Bio-Ag. He can be reached at

This article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Methods for Weathering Drought

By Ed Brotak

With the arrival of spring, farmers and gardeners look forward to the start of the growing season. As temperatures warm, spring planting can begin. Fruit trees will break winter dormancy. Pastures will start to green up. Livestock become more active. But as spring turns into summer, the weather can also provide challenges — the greatest of which are heat waves and droughts.

In the summer, temperatures may soar past levels where plants and animals begin to be affected and can reach a point where production is negatively impacted. At worst, damage or even death can occur. Drought is an even greater threat to crops. A lack of water causes even more immediate production losses and a total loss is certainly possible.

For many locations, heat and drought go hand in hand during the summer, and just about every year somewhere in the country heat waves and drought occur. Every farmer is bound to find themselves dealing with drought at some point. What constitutes hot temperatures depends on where you live. For Fairbanks, Alaska, 90°F is rare but has occurred.

In Columbia, South Carolina, where it can top 90°F many times in the course of a summer, even 100 degrees is not that unusual. This is important since to a large degree agricultural operations are geared for normal conditions; the type of temperatures normally experienced and expected. With the relatively cool waters of the Pacific just offshore, the West Coast has only brief hot spells when an offshore flow develops in summer. From the Rockies eastward, abnormally hot conditions become more of a periodic threat.

corn field drought
For farmers, the decision to put in an irrigation system is often dictated by economics. One must consider the cost of the system versus the possible crop losses due to drought.

Livestock and poultry can be directly affected by heat. For cattle, temperatures of 80°F to 85°F will start to have an impact. Temperatures above 90 degrees can pose serious health risks. The same is true for sheep and goats. Swine are even more susceptible to the heat. With poultry, egg production will start to fall off with temperatures above 80°F.

When temperatures get above 85°F, significant physical effects are noted. Temperatures above 90°F can lead to heat stress, illness and even death.

For plants, heat can also cause problems, but it’s a lack of water that is most critical. As soon as the water needs of a plant aren’t being met, you start having problems. You can have reduced yield for edible plants or crops even without visible damage. Temporary wilting can occur and even if the plant recovers, growth can be stunted. Plants may shed their leaves to conserve water.

Permanent wilting means death for annual plants and an end to the growing season for perennials. Water is more critical in certain life stages such as germination and initial development when roots are small. The reproductive phase also requires more water. Water usage varies with plant type with some plants being more or less susceptible to the effects of drought. Whereas other types of drought take weeks or months to develop, plants can begin to feel the effects of reduced water within days of even a good soaking rain.

Like heat, drought is a problem even when it occurs only periodically. In the Southwest, you know it’s going to be dry and you can allow for that. Along the West Coast, you can expect dry summers, increasingly long and dry as you head further south. But for much of the country, rainfall during the growing season is common. It’s the unusual lack of rain that causes problems.

In terms of weather patterns, drought and heat in summer have the same source. An upper-level ridge of high pressure is the culprit. A ridge is a large mound of warm air that extends miles up into the atmosphere.

Under the ridge and to its east, the air is sinking. Air warms as it sinks, so any clouds would dissipate in the sinking air. Besides being warm to start with, the air is heated even further by the strong summer sun shining through cloudless skies. What moisture there is in the ground is quickly evaporated. The dry ground heats up even more, warming the air above it and further strengthening the upper ridge. With upper-level weather systems covering hundreds if not 1,000 miles or more, it’s certain that some place in the country will suffer through a heat wave and drought during any given summer.

Predicting Drought

Can meteorologists predict heat waves and droughts in advance? To a certain extent, yes. The complex computer models that are the basis of weather forecasting today are actually pretty good out to two weeks, especially in terms of upper-level features. Just go to the National Weather Service website, and click on Climatic Outlooks or check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

You can see if your region is headed for hot, dry conditions. The Climate Prediction Center also issues the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. This is a prediction based on long-range mathematical and statistical models. The Outlook is issued on the third Thursday of each month (it’s tied to the running of those models) and updated on the first Thursday.

Starting with areas already designated as drought stricken, the Outlook predicts whether things will persist or get worse, improve somewhat, or will improve dramatically. It also highlights areas where drought is expected to develop. The Outlook covers the next three months. Always keep in mind that such long-range forecasts can be off considerably. The science of weather forecasting has not yet developed to the point of making highly accurate long-range forecasts.

So, what can we do to combat these summertime weather extremes?

How to Care for Crops in Excessive Heat and Prolonged Drought

Mulching can reduce direct evaporation of moisture from the soil. This can be especially helpful for seed germination. For plants, water is critical. Plants evaporate water through the process of evapotranspiration. They transpire water through their leaves and as it evaporates, it helps cool the leaf. But water is also critical since it is the food/nutrient transport system in plants (similar to blood in an animal). And the water vital for plant existence is taken from the soil by the root system.

One caveat of this is the importance of soil type. Sandy soils drain quickly, not retaining much water for plants. Pure clay soils are often too wet for good root development.

Loam soils (a mixture of sand and clay) are best. Mixing in organic matter also helps retain moisture.

drought-stricken soil
Sandy soils drain quickly, not retaining much water for plants. Pure clay soils are often too wet for good root development.

Mainly, we have to provide water — watering gardens and irrigating crops. For farmers, the decision to put in an irrigation system is often dictated by economics. One must consider the cost of the system versus the possible crop losses due to drought. The statistical probability of a drought in your area would be a major factor.

How much water do we need to provide? The actual amount of water you should supply depends on the remaining moisture content of the soil. This is often difficult to measure precisely. Certainly you can get an idea of how dry a soil is by just feeling it.

Some of the state ag stations actually keep track of soil moisture, but keep in mind this can vary a great deal regionally. The soil moisture supply is a function of rainfall and evaporation.

Rainfall can be measured by simple rain gauges, which are inexpensive and available at many stores featuring outdoor goods. Evaporation from the soil and evapotranspiration from plants is almost impossible to measure in the real world. Various agricultural weather sites measure “pan evaporation,” evaporation from an open water surface. This gives at least an idea of how much water is being lost. Amounts can be significant. On a hot, dry summer day, one-quarter to one-third of an inch of water can evaporate in one day.

Livestock Considerations in Extreme Heat and Drought

For animals, tolerance to heat is directly related to water supply. Cattle and horses cool themselves by sweating like people do. Chickens and pigs pant like dogs do. In both cases, internal water is evaporated causing a cooling effect. With an adequate water supply, animals can deal with a certain amount of excessive heat. Dehydration is much more of a concern.

In terms of livestock and poultry, we must consider the humidity as well as the temperature in judging heat effects.

The Temperature-Humidity Index, now more commonly called the Heat Index, was developed to ascertain the effects of heat on humans but also works for animals. The rate of evaporation and thus the ability of a body to cool itself is a function of the relative humidity of the air. Dry air allows more evaporative cooling. So at the same air temperature, moist air feels warmer to people and animals and puts more heat stress on them.

Cow drinking water to combat heat
With an adequate water supply, animals can deal with a certain amount of excessive heat.

How can we combat heat stress in livestock and poultry? Basically, we can use the same methods we use for humans (although air conditioning would be a bit extreme). Provide sufficient clean and cool water to alleviate the threat of dehydration. Provide shade. Temperatures in the sun can be 10 to 15 degrees warmer than in the shade. In enclosures, ventilation helps. It will keep the heat from building up and aid evaporative cooling.

This can be as simple as having open sides on a shelter or installing ventilation fans. Foggers or misters can also be used.

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the April 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

When Should I Test My Corn or Sorghum Plants?

By Charles Walters

There are three critical stages in corn (grain or sorghum) plants you should test around. The final stage deserves a close visual examination.

Less than 12 inches height: At 25 days, analyze the entire plant for N plus minerals (P, K, Ca, Mg, Na, Zn, Fe, Mn, Cu). Pull 15 plants with roots and wash off all dirt before wilting. Air-dry and place in a paper bag (not plastic) for shipment to the lab. Take plants from a repre­sentative area of the field, one plant for every fifth row in a diagonal pattern across the field, starting 50-feet inside the field and away from the edges. Do not mix problem areas. Sample problem areas sepa­rately. At this critical period, before plants form embryo in the ear, essential nutrients can be adjusted to affect yield potential. Apply a balanced formula foliar fortified with deficient nutrients and adjuvants, as in growth aids, humic acid, microbes, energy (molasses), etc. Help overcome weather stress with plant growth hormones & enzymes. Only minimal rates are needed when sprayed directly on plants. Note: by the 5-6 leaf, embryo in the ear is forming and a balanced nutrition adds rows of grains.

corn stages
Corn stages are important to know as you plan your testing.

At Boot: This stage occurs when less than 15% of tassels or heads are peaking out. Pull 12 leaves from the most recently mature leaf — when the full dew-lap (sheath) is showing. Cut at the dew-lap and take the entire leaf including the base of the midrib. Mature leaves will have most of the sheath showing. Take samples from the same area and pattern of the field as the first samples. At this point moisture and all nutrients are entering a maximum usage period. Apply deficient nutrients in water or as foliar spray (especially zinc for N use efficiency and proper plant growth). Hormones can be added to stimulate root and grain growth.

At Pollination: When corn silks are turning dark. The major need at this time is nitrate or urea nitrogen for grain filling. Pull 12 ear leaves for sampling. Use the same pattern and area as previous samples. Take full leaves. N, foliar or water applied at this stage has increased yields by 15 to 20 bu. per acre when needed. Only soil nitrate or urea (applied soil and foliar) works this late. Testing evaluates how well this crop has been fed and aids as a tool for adjustment for next year’s fertility program.

At Maturity: At this stage, do a crop scene investigation (visual autopsy).

Source: Ask the Plant

How to Estimate Plant Populations Per Acre

By Dr. Harold Willis

An accurate estimate of plant population per acre can be obtained by counting the number of stalks in a length of row equal to 1/1000 of an acre. Make at least three counts in separate parts of the cornfield, figure the average of these samples, and then multiple this number times one thousand.

How to estimate plant populations per acre.

Source: Ask the Plant

Density, Location and Ideal Conditions for Planting Corn

By Dr. Harold Willis

When planting corn, it’s important to understand best practices for your highest yields.

Where and How to Plant Corn

There are many factors that gov­ern optimal population and row width, ignoring the obvious one of the type of machinery you own. Very important are moisture and nutrients, for high population corn needs high fertility soil and adequate moisture. In general, with average rainfall, you can plant higher populations in the northern and eastern U.S. than in the southern and western areas of the corn belt, unless you can irrigate.

If moisture and nutrients are adequate, narrower rows and higher populations give higher yields. Drilling, with accurate within-row spacing, gives better yields than hill-dropping or check-planting. Higher populations can be planted if corn is grown for silage or fodder than for grain. Average populations are about 17–18,000 per acre, low populations are about 12,000 per acre, and high popula­tions can run up to 25–30,000 per acre.

chart for seed spacing
Typically, only about 85% of planted kernels reach maturity, so here is a table giving kernels per acre to plant and kernel spacing for drilled corn (adapted from R. J. Delorit, L. J. Greub, & H. L. Ahlgren, Crop Production, 4th ed., 1974, p. 105):

Although higher populations give higher yields under ideal conditions, if there are stresses from adverse weather or if the soil runs out of readily available nutrients, yield and test weight will be reduced, as will ear size, leaf area, number of ears, and pro­tein and oil content. Silking will be delayed, leading to poor pol­lination. Lodging, stalk rot, corn borer, and other problems will be increased.

Nutrient deficiency throughout the growing season can often be corrected by side dressing and/or foliar feeding. But considering the unpredictability of the weather, it may be best to avoid the temptation to plant very high populations and risk getting a poor crop.

How to calculate the number and length of rows for planting corn.

When to Plant Corn

In general, earlier planting produces better yields, but that can be carried too far. Everyone wants to be “first on their block” to get their corn planted, and often the soil is simply too cold for germination, or a late cold spell injures seedlings or slows growth. Corn will hardly germinate below 50°F soil temperature, and the best temperature is about 68°. Tests have shown that at 50–55°, corn takes 18–20 days to emerge; at 60–65° it takes 8–10 days; while at 70° it only takes 5–6 days.

Best seedling growth oc­curs at 86°F. It is best to check the soil temperature at a two-inch depth to be sure the soil is warm enough. Checking in the morning will give a truer reading, since the soil temperature at that depth may rise 5–15 degrees on a sunny day. When soil temperatures reach about 55–59° for several days — plant. Planting should not be delayed if the soil is warm enough, so that the corn can make its vegetative growth before hot, dry weather, which can interfere with silking and tasseling. However, later planted corn, especially open pollinated varieties, can often catch up with early planted hybrids if soil fertility is high enough.

Seed should be planted deeper (2–4 inches) in light or lumpy soil, and shallower (11/2–3 inches) in heavy soils or a good seed­ bed. Proper moisture at planting depth is most important, then comes temperature. In dry soils, you may have to plant as deep as 3–4 inches in clay or 5 inches in sand to have enough moisture. For very early planting, plant 1/2 to 1 inch shallower than normal (if moisture is adequate) to avoid cold temperature.

Source: How to Grow Top Quality Corn

Seedbed Preparation for Corn

By Dr. Harold Willis

There are several basic methods and many variations of ways to till the soil and prepare a good seedbed for corn planting. An ideal seedbed is warm, moist, well aerated but firm soil. Old timers used to carefully plow and harrow the entire field to uniform fineness, but since only the row serves as the seedbed, some methods only prepare a seedbed in the row, leaving the soil between the rows rougher. This will provide a poor seedbed for weeds between the rows and allow the corn to get a head start.

The most commonly used tillage and planting methods are:


Plowing (in fall or spring) followed by disking, field cultivation, rotary hoeing, or harrowing. Requires more traffic; possible increased compaction. Fall plowing is best for fine-textured soils in the North; also it exposes hibernating insect pests to freezing weather. Do not fall plow on steep slopes subject to erosion. Crop residues should be mostly worked into the plow layer, and not deeply clean-plowed (over 8–10 inches). Moldboard plowing where the soil is turned on edge is good for breaking sod and incorporating green manure crops. Disk plowing is good for dry regions and light soils; it may prepare a good seedbed in one pass. Chisel plowing is fast, good for well-drained soil, but leaves most trash on top (plant residues ideally should be worked into the upper several inches to one foot; otherwise they will not turn into humus). Chisel plowing is not good for sod and moist soils. Never plow too wet soil; serious compaction and loss of tilth results.


The lister (“middlebreaker”) opens a furrow by throwing soil to the sides (by a double moldboard or disks); seed is planted in the bottom (later cultivations throw soil back into the furrow). It is good for medium-textured soils in dry and hot areas.


Similar to listing except that seed is planted on the ridges. It is good for areas with abundant rainfall (ridges should follow the land’s contour [across a hill, not up and down it] to catch rain and slow erosion). Also, ridges warm up fast in the spring if they run east-west.

Cultivator planting

After fall or spring plowing, final tillage and planting are combined in one operation. It is good for control­ling early weeds if the soil has become crusted.

Systems for reduced tillage and minimum tillage

alfalfa in the dirt
Alfalfa crop just after it is worked into the soil via mulch tilling before organic corn is planted.

Strip tillage

Same as cultivator planting except that only the row is tilled (with rotary hoes, etc.). It is good for me­dium or coarse well-drained soils in the western corn belt: It does not work well if a living sod is left between rows.

Wheel-track planting

Spring plowing followed (within hours if possible) by planting, with tractor and planter wheels firming the seedbed. Can be done without plow­ing after small grains or row crops if the soil is moder­ately moist. It is good on light and moist soils, but crowds much field work into a short time.


Plowing and planting are combined in one operation. It greatly reduces traffic, but requires good tilth or light soils.

Mulch tillage

Leave crop residues on the surface, kill weeds with herbicide, till with sweep or chisel, then light disking, or use rotary tiller for entire operation; seed is planted with regular planter with disk openers or furrow openers on shoe-type planter. Conserves moisture, reduc­es runoff. It is used in dry areas, but is not good for fine-textured soils, which settle and become compacted.


Used on grain stubble, sod, or a cover crop. Veg­etation is killed with herbicide, planting is done with a furrow opener. Allows planting on wet soil and steep hill­sides; decreases erosion (at least temporarily). It is not good for fine-textured, poorly drained soils and in the North.

Out of these tillage and planting methods, choose the one that suits your climate, soil type, and machinery. You should think twice before using systems that require high herbicide use.

Source: How to Grow Top Quality Corn