The buzz in the country is so debby downer. Hearing things like…”coolest spring on record”, and “this delay in planting could really impact yields again this year”…really made me nervous. So, me being me, I went straight to the horse’s, I mean agronomist’s mouth. Meet Joe Speich, Evansville Wis Landmark agronomist extraordinaire.
Joe invited me out to the field for a discussion on my favorite topic, agronomy (not really, I am being facetious!). But, I do enjoy learning new things, so I agreed. Thank goodness I brought extra shoes, because I am pretty sure high heels in soft dirt wouldn’t get me very far!
There are five things a grower can do to position themselves for success. That’s good news, as I am the ever eternal optimist…so far I am glad I went straight to the expert!
Here are five rules from the Landmark agronomy team on providing the best start to the corn crop:
1. Wait until soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F.
Planting corn in soil that is too cold can impact early seedling development. Speich says the optimal soil for corn planting is 50 degrees F because the warmth helps foster seedling growth.
2. Plant corn when average daily high temperatures reach 60 to 70 degrees F and overnight temperatures are in the mid-50 degree F temperature range for an extended period of time.
With the delayed spring in the Midwest, temperatures have not reached this level for an extended period of time, meaning that soil temperatures have not reached the needed temperature. Watch the forecast for an extended period of warm temperatures before planting. Cold weather following planting can cause damage to seedlings by cooling the soil.
3. Do not plant before expected rainfall.
Cold water can damage seedlings and reduce yields from the start. The most critical period of the growing season is the 48 hours following planting.
“If more than 1 inch of cold rain happens after planting, we can predict about a 20 percent stand loss just from the cold weather of the rain,” Speich says. “Once the cold water gets into the seedling, it causes cracking and infections of the cells. Look for a constant, warm 60 to 70 degree period with no major rain in the forecast; that’s a safe time to be planting corn.”
4. Be observant of soil conditions.
Moisture levels in the soil impact seedling growth. Plant corn in saturated soil can be problematic.
“If soil is muddy, you can start seeing sidewall compaction caused by the corn planter,” Speich says. “This can cause a delay in root development in corn. To help ensure a better yield, be conscious on how wet the fields are and do not try to rush them. Letting the field dry out for an additional day will pay dividends in the fall.”
As a general rule, if the soil sticks to the depth-gauge wheel on the corn planter, the soil is too wet for corn planting.
5. Work with an agronomist to create a planting plan.
Fertilizers, growth regulators, planter box treatments and other additives can help promote early corn stand growth. Agronomists can determine a plan that works best for the field and the goals of the operation.
“Rely on a trusted agronomist for recommendations,” Speich says. “Each farm is different; an agronomist can help you determine which products, planting time and programs are best for you.”