Sponsored By
indiana Prairie Farmer Logo

Monitor soil temperature before planting cornMonitor soil temperature before planting corn

There's nothing corny about sticking a soil thermometer in the ground to see if the soil is warm enough for planting corn

Tom Bechman 1

April 28, 2015

2 Min Read

Maybe seed corn companies ought to give away soil thermometers instead of caps and jackets. They may not get as much advertising value, but the farmer who gets one and uses it before planting corn may find enough value in it to remain a valued customer for life.

Related: When to plant corn: Waiting on the magic number of 55 degrees F

Those who are serious about timing corn planting and paying attention to soil temperatures often carry a soil thermometer. They may also look at the upcoming weather forecast.


If the soil temperature is borderline, say right at or just under 55 degrees F and a warm spell is expected, planting corn may be in order. If it's the same situation but several days of cloudy, cooler than normal temperatures are forecast, it may pay to hold off, even if you do sacrifice days on the calendar.

Planting corn "early" is relative and varies by conditions which definitely vary season by season.

One year ago Scott Gabbard watched a plot carefully on Ken Simpson's farm near Morristown. Simpson had agreed to put out field size plots with both Bob Nielsen and Jim Camberato for nitrogen trials, and with Kiersten Wise for fungicide trials. All three are Purdue University Extension agronomists.

While they picked corn planting dates carefully based on the weather, a cold, wet spell after planting lasted longer than expected. Gabbard documented with his camera that soil temperatures fell back after planting.

Gabbard also captured the yellow color of the corn that persisted during that cool, rainy, cloudy spell. If Simpson wished his corn was back in the sack at that point, no one could have blamed him.

The rest of the story, however, is that due to a nearly ideal pollinations season, that field recovered and not only hit average yield, it produced more than 220 bushels per acre. There was a day in late May when you likely could have bought the field for far less than 200 bushels per acre!

Don't overlook spring planter preparation – if you skip it, you could be subject to the bottom-line implications of not minding the details. For helpful tips, download our free report: Planter Preparation Tips: Best Practices for Minimizing Breakdowns this Spring

The moral of the story? Pay attention to soil temperatures when planting corn, but remember they are just one piece to the puzzle. Factor in other issues as well when deciding when to plant.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like