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Who Will Lose the Planting Lottery?

Nearly every Hoosier planting season has a couple days not to plant.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

April 28, 2010

2 Min Read

Sonny Beck likes to talk about how to determine when it's right to plant corn early in the spring. The seedsman from Atlanta, Ind., and an Indiana Prairie Farmer/ Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer, says when he's looking to start planting, he looks for two to three days where the weather is forecast to be dry, with temperatures rising, before a rain comes. His theory is that if you can get corn started before a heavy rain compacts the surface, the seedlings still have a good chance of getting up and establishing themselves.

This spring opened up with an extended work period through the middle and latter part of April. Soils in some areas were the best condition they've been in years. Many people sya they will plant after a certain date, whatever date they choose, if soil conditions are right. Mother Nature met that criteria for many folks this year. It's one reason corn planting is nearing completion in southwest Indiana, and also why some soybeans have already been planted.

The trick is knowing if there is a day you should wait and not plant because rain and cooler weather is in the forecast. It doesn't help when forecasts conflict, not only on when the rain will arrive, but on how much, with projected amounts during the entire rain event ranging from a half-inch to two inches, depending upon the source you listened to for weather information.

Nearly every season has a couple days where people could plant, but then conditions turned sour and stayed sour longer than expected. Sour usually means cool and wet. The result is often poor stands, or at least below average stands. Sometimes replanting is necessary. How do you know when those times are coming? Did one set up last week?

Two months from now, we can likely answer that question. But in advance, there is no way to know for sure. If the planter sits when it could roll, you're losing valuable time n the yield-loss free window (due to planting date). If that gets pushed back into finishing planting in late May, then what you could have planted that day is planted with a loss in potential upfront. It didn't apply last year, but 2009 was the 'one in 20' seasons where very late-planted crops still performed well.

The answer? Know which weather service has been accurate in your area. Have a strategy, such as Beck does. Then roll the dice. After all, nobody said farming wasn't a gamble.

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.

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