By TOM J. BECHMAN
Maybe you planted corn in June in 2011. Perhaps you also planted corn in June in 2010. Is the cause strictly weather? Do you need to pick earlier starting dates and be ready to go when the weather allows?
Assuming you believe your equipment is sized right for your acreage, the real question is: How early can you plant?
• Ideal planting window for corn in Indiana is April 20 to May 5, agronomists say.
• Planting too early increases the risk of replanting.
• Choose which fields have the best chance of performing well if planted early.
“One of the first questions to ask is if you have time to replant in the spring with all the other jobs you need to accomplish,” says Betsy Bower, slyly. Bower is an agronomist with Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, and an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser.
Early planting risks vs. rewards
“If you plant early, you may need to replant a field or two,” she explains.
The magic planting dates, based upon Purdue University research, are April 20 to May 5 in Indiana, Bower observes. In that range, she says you can normally expect 100% of yield potential at several different planting populations. “What is more important than calendar date is the weather that the corn experiences after planting,” she adds. “Cool, wet conditions soon after planting can greatly impact seedling health and possibly reduce overall stands.
“Even though corn planted earlier for the most part yields better than later-planted corn, there will always be cases due to weather events after planting in which later-planted corn will yield better.”
That occurred in 2011, based on anecdotal reports. For some, May 21-24 were the worst days to plant, because cool, wet weather followed. There was no way to tell in advance. Others reported their best corn was planted in June. But in still other cases, there was up to a 40-bushel-per-acre yield hit for planting in June vs. planting three weeks earlier. Inconsistent patterns were the rule, not the exception, in 2011.
“Depending on where you’re located in Indiana will determine if you have a better chance of successfully planting corn early,” Bower continues. “It’s not uncommon for the sandy soils in southwest Indiana to get planted to corn, and sometimes soybeans, near the end of March or early in April when conditions are good.
“However, these growers don’t even consider planting their heavier, wetter soils at this time. There’s still a lot of weather risk planting in early April, from frost or from rain that can set in, not allowing soils to dry as fast from still cool daily temperatures.”
If you plan to plant a few fields on the early side in your operation, choose fields with good drainage, Bower adds. That will limit some of your risk to seedling diseases. Recognize that there are also some risks for early-planted corn to damage from some species of nematodes, wireworms and white grubs, she continues. This happens partly because the corn is slow growing.
“It’s worth thinking about planting some fields early to spread out the spring and fall harvest workloads, but choose wisely the fields you plan to plant early if conditions allow,” Bower concludes.
Off and running: When to turn the planter loose when conditions are right remains a debatable question in Indiana.
This article published in the February, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.