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2/8/2010 - 2/14/2010

Converting Your Planter for No-till Operation

By Mark Hanna, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

A few pointers will help adjust a planter for no-till farming systems. Instructions for getting optimum results from your planter in a no-till system are contained on a DVD created by members of the Iowa Learning Farm team. The DVD is available from the Iowa Learning Farm for free and can also be seen on YouTube in a series of videos.

A planter must accomplish three key responsibilities in a no-till system: planting seed at a uniform depth, closing the furrow so that the seed is in proper contact with soil to start germination and maintaining uniform seed spacing.

hanna and planter

Hanna walks viewers through a few planter adjustments on Iowa Learning Farm DVD and videos.


The DVD and videos offer tips and simple checks for successful planting on two different planter configurations, depending on the style of implement. There are tips on leveling the planter frame, down pressure on depth gauge wheels, adjustments of seed openers and closing systems, and use of attachments such as row cleaners and fertilizer injectors.

In a no-till situation, the planter is the key to successful no-till. It is the only time you have to move the soil to get the seed established. So treating the planter with respect and paying attention to some finer adjustments can really have big dividends.

In a no-till system, the soil is not disturbed before planting, except for perhaps injecting fertilizer. A coulter or disk seed-furrower opens a narrow strip for planting. Other tillage is eliminated entirely and residue from the previous crop year remains on the soil’s surface. No-till has many benefits including improved soil productivity, increased organic matter and improved water infiltration. This system conserves energy by reducing passes across the field and improves soil tilth and soil organic matter. It also can reduce the capital costs associated with equipment used in conventional tillage.

The planter DVD is available at no charge by emailing the Iowa Learning Farm at, and be sure to include a mailing address; or write to Iowa Learning Farm, 2101 Agronomy Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA  50011. The same information is available on YouTube in a series of video segments.


Mark Hanna is an extension agricultural engineer in agricultural and biosystems engineering with responsibilities in field machinery.

Summary of 2009 Western Bean Cutworm Trapping Program

By Laura Jesse, Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic; Erin Hodgson, Department of Entomology; Adam Sisson, Department of Plant Pathology; and Rich Pope, Harrison County Extension Coordinator

The western bean cutworm (WBC), once a pest of the High Plains, has been on the move since at least 2000. (See map below.) This native caterpillar pest of dry beans and corn has been expanding its range to the east through the Corn Belt. WBC spread across Iowa during 2000-2003 and was first recorded in Illinois and Missouri in 2004.

The trapping network expanded in 2005 and WBC moths were recorded in Minnesota and Wisconsin. In 2006 and 2007, WBC was detected further east through Indiana and into Ohio. These appear to be established populations of WBC, but to date reports of economic damage are sporadic.

The reason for this range expansion is unknown but possibilities include reduced tillage not killing overwintering larvae in the soil, climate change, and widespread planting of transgenic corn varieties. There are indications that the use of Cry1Ab corn, which controls European corn borer and corn earworm but not western bean cutworm, may have reduced competition and allowed for greater survival and spread of the western bean cutworm.

Beginning in 2003, Iowa State University set up a network of pheromone traps to monitor WBC range expansion and to provide moth emergence data to enhance scouting efforts. Cooperators included local seed corn dealers, private corn and soybean agronomists and others interested in pest management issues. 

The network has expanded with cooperators now in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Anyone interested in becoming part of the monitoring network should visit the Western Bean Cutworm Monitoring website. The trapping program is explained in detail in the ICM article, Western bean cutworm: Pheromone trapping program

An article written last summer, Use Treatment Thresholds for Western Bean Cutworm, descripes western bean cutworm, damage and management options.

map of western bean cutworm

Western bean cutworm trap catches in the Midwest United States in 2009. In addition to the states shown, adults were captured in Pennsylvania and New York, and in Canada in Ontario and Quebec. (Larger version of this image.)


Description of traps and network
Cooperators construct their own pheromone traps from one-gallon plastic milk jugs. Windows (4-inch squares) are cut in the sides of the jug. A 2-inch space between the window and the bottom of the jug serves as a reservoir that is filled with a 4:1 mixture of water and antifreeze, with a few drops of dish soap. A paper clip, placed inside the jug cap, holds the pheromone lure in place.

All pheromone traps are set up by July 1. Each day, trap cooperators strain the moths out of the solution and count the adult western bean cutworm moths. They then enter the results on a public website.
These trap captures reflect the moth flight within an area and indicate the proper time to start scouting for western bean cutworm eggs. 

Laura Jesse is an entomologist with the Iowa State University Extension Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. She can be reached by email at or by phone (515) 294-5374. Erin Hodgson is an assistant professor of entomology with extension and research responsibilities. She can be contacted by email at or phone (515) 294-2847.

This article was published originally on 2/15/2010 The information contained within the article may or may not be up to date depending on when you are accessing the information.

Links to this material are strongly encouraged. This article may be republished without further permission if it is published as written and includes credit to the author, Integrated Crop Management News and Iowa State University Extension. Prior permission from the author is required if this article is republished in any other manner.