The question is continually being asked: “Why do some farmers drill in their corn while their neighbors are against the plan and in favor of check rowing?” There is also an intimation that it will be difficult to keep the crop clean if drilled, and more difficlut to thin it properly than if hilled. I have practiced both hill and drill planting, and under certain conditions prefer one and under other conditions the other. The advocates of drilling claim that this plan, giving, as it does, a more even distribution of the stalks in the row, will produce larger ears and a better yield, and I think this is true.
It does not pay the farmer with small, or rolling, or irregular fields to try to use the check rower, and if he does not, but checks by means of the hand lever, the field must first be marked the other way, and then two hands are required to operate the planter, so there is quite a saving in time in planting by the drill method. The corn is easier to thin when planted with the drill than when in check rows, for if a stalk is to be taken out it stands by itself and can be chopped out with the hoe, while if there are too many stalks in a hill the surplus must be pulled and often the remaining stalks are disturbed.
As a matter of fact, drilled corn can usually be planted so as to require no thinning. I think the farmer with good land, in good conditions, can keep drilled corn as clean as that in hills. You can get closer to the corn at the first plowing if there is but one stalk in a place, and planted in a perfectly straight row, than if there are several stalks in a hill and somewhat scattered. We do not drill the corn in the bottom of a furrow, but it is very near the surface, and we can set the cultivator or bar shears, with a fender between them and the corn so as to run very close to the row, and virtually hoe every stalk at the first working. Then by changing the tools each successive working can be made satisfactory, so that they can be kept perfectly clean.
In drilling one must see that the rows are the right width to suit the cultivator with which the crop is to be tended, or, as I have seen, there will be a strip of weeds in the middle of the row. He must also be sure and master the weeds in the row at the very start, or he will have a weedy row and a stunted crop. To enable him to do this the land must be in good condition at planting time, and either a roller or a plank drag must be used to smooth and level off the field. The man who drills in a crop of corn on a rough, badly prepared field, or on one full of foul seed, or who fails to get into his corn at the earliest day he can do good work, and push the cultivation at the start, is likely to have a poor crop, and while the same is to a certain extent true of corn in check rows, yet there is a better chance to clean out the crop if weeds get a start in it when you can plow both ways.
I believe the time is near at hand when most of the corn crop will be handled by machinery. We shall see the corn cut up in the field by a machine which will cut a row as fast as two horses can walk, and this will be put in small shocks which will soon cure out, and then it will be run through a machine which will husk the corn and chaff the fodder.