Suppose it’s April 15. Soil conditions are fit. You have 3,000 acres of corn to plant. There's just one catch. You would like three days at 70 degrees F or higher following planting. Instead, there are chances of showers and highs in the 50s and 60s in the forecast. Do you plant or wait?
What the farmer in this scenario really wants to know is: Will this be the one day this season when you should not have planted? Unfortunately, you can't know the answer until later.
The panel of Indiana Certified Crop Advisers grappling with this question includes: Jesse Grogan, agronomist, LG Seeds, Lafayette; Greg Kneubuhler, G&K Concepts, Harlan; and Tom Stein, manager of the Boswell and Templeton branches for Ceres Solutions.
Stein: If it’s April 15 and you have 3,000 acres of corn to plant and soil conditions are fit for planting, my recommendation would be to plant corn. The reason behind waiting for three days of 70 degree weather may be to achieve more ideal growing conditions. Unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world, and you may not get three consecutive days of 70 degree weather until May 15. I would take advantage of the opportunity that’s before you with good soil conditions and a suitable seedbed.
Kneubuhler: The corn planter is a sacred pass, and I’ve always said you only get one chance to do it right. Unfortunately, there is always a day or days we wish we hadn't planted, but you don’t know that until after the fact.
I would, however, always always always plant corn when ground conditions are fit. I don’t care what the calendar says. I care what the ground conditions are. Now, common sense has to be in the decision. I would avoid an early planting date like April 15 if the following day’s forecast is for cold and heavy rains. But as long as the forecast is favorable and ground conditions are fit, I’d plant corn without hesitation.
Grogan: Planting corn on a timely basis in the spring is often the best option, especially when large acreage is involved. However, seed germination is more uniform when conditions for water imbibition and sprouting the root radicle and coleoptile are in a period of warm temperature at planting. This helps with uniform emergence. Chilling injury can occur after inbibition when temperatures are below 50 degrees within 48 hours of planting.
Another reason for caution — planting in soils that are too wet, especially when soils are cool. Planting a few days later in the early spring does not delay emergence too much since overall temperatures are cool. There are years when planting is delayed due to wet and cool weather into mid- and late May. Yields can still be normal if warmer temperatures and timely rain events occur in the summer.