Soil not ready? Don’t rush to plant
By AARON SAEUGLING
With corn planting now in focus and declining commodity prices on our minds, it’s accuracy, precision and optimism that drive our daily routine while we wait for Mother Nature to give us the green flag. Where will you be when the green flag is dropped?
Iowa farmers are masters at the art of planting corn. How do they accomplish this feat every season? Hybrids today have changed, and so have tractors and planters. While agronomists and farmers agree that technology has changed how corn is planted today, the basic concept is the same. When planting corn in 2016, farmers must consider date, depth, maturity, spacing, soil and accuracy. This list is the foundation for maximizing yield.
ISU studies on planting date have shown April 12 to May 2 in northeast Iowa as optimum for achieving a 95% to 100% maximum corn yield (red area on map above). In central and northwest Iowa (yellow), it’s April 15 to May 18. In southern Iowa (blue) April 11 to May 13 is the optimum planting window.
While most agree planting early is oftentimes our best-yielding corn, we need proper soil conditions. When planting the first field of corn, continue to monitor soil conditions and planter performance. I often get calls on shallow planting, sidewall compaction and poor emergence. These symptoms are often a result of wet soil conditions.
With lower commodity prices, being a half a day early can be costly. No one has a crystal ball to forecast market prices or long-term weather, so be sure to control the factors you can control.
ISU Extension agronomist Mark Licht is conducting research on corn planting date and maturity group across the state. The trials look at four planting dates ranging from April to early July, and three maturity groups of hybrids. This research project is not complete, but the trend in the results so far shows that it’s best to use commonly adapted hybrids for the location when planting later than usual due to adverse weather conditions.
Planting in southwest Iowa has been delayed the last two seasons, yet farmers adapted and had good yields despite the delay.
So how can we overcome a delay? With late-planted corn, Mother Nature has to be on our side during pollination. Cool temperatures and adequate rainfall during pollination are ingredients for good corn yields.
Be patient. Each farmer has a “plantability” factor. By that I mean if you have five “good” days, how many acres of corn can you plant? Most farms with modern technology can plant well after dark. So try not to be the one who can make a lot of mistakes in a short amount of time with a big planter. Especially if the soil in a field isn’t quite ready, you should be the tortoise, not the hare.
Saeugling is the ISU Extension field agronomist in southwest Iowa. Email email@example.com.
Optimum dates to plant corn
The best thinking on corn planting dates is to begin to plant if soil conditions are favorable in mid-to-late April and are expected to remain that way for a week or so, or improve.
This article published in the April, 2016 edition of WALLACES FARMER.
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