COLOR BY COLOR. Randy Dowdy places different colored flags, in this case blue, yellow and pink, based on the timing of the plant’s emergence. The taller red flag is to mark the area where the tests were done so that he can find it when the plants have all grown taller. Image: Randy Dowdy

Analyze Planter Performance with Dowdy’s Simple Flag Test

World record yielder Randy Dowdy explains how he measures emergence & planter performance, which he says are the biggest contributors to the bottom line.

With all the money that no-tillers put into their fields, it’s important to know what they’re paying for is working. Randy Dowdy, who holds the world record for no-till corn yield at 532 bushels per acre, uses a flag test to assess the variance of crop emergence timing amongst his crops and if the planter is performing to the best of its ability.

Dowdy says no-tillers should be present in the field and observant of what’s happening in the soil. That sparked the idea for the flag test back in 2010. 

“I remember thinking, ‘How many of our plants are coming up simultaneously, and how far can the deviation be between the first emerging plant and the last emerging plant without costing me yield?” Dowdy says. 

The basic idea of the flag test is to mark the crops as soon as they emerge to keep track of which ones emerged at the same time, which ones emerged later and how timing of emergence affected the crop throughout the season.

“When the plant is an eighth of an inch or even less — when it’s just coming out of the ground — you need to be in the field observing the plants as they come up,” Dowdy says. “And by observing, I mean picking a row that matches the whole width of your planter and making sure all of the rows are performing the exact same way.”

Dowdy says to take a small section of the field, and as soon as…

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Mackane vogel

Mackane Vogel

Mackane Vogel is the Assistant Editor of Farm Equipment, No-Till Farmer, Cover Crop Strategies and other Lessiter Media publications. An avid writer for the last 10 years, he previously served as the editorial intern for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and also wrote for several different sports journalism outlets before joining the Lessiter Media team in 2022. Mackane is a 2020 journalism graduate of Marquette University.

Contact: mvogel@lessitermedia.com

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