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Concerns Build On Corn Emerging Through Crusted Soil

Concerns Build On Corn Emerging Through Crusted Soil
Slow-germinating seedlings in cool soils need power to push through crust.

One week ago the concern was whether corn planted in conventional or minimum tillage that received a two and one-half inch rain on top of it would come through crusting soils.

One farmer took to the field with a pocket knife to see what was happening below the surface. He found one plant leafed out in a really hard area on the end rows, below ground. No chemicals had been applied so it was likely the plant trying to push its way up and through the soil.

Related: Is There a Magic Number When it Comes to Seed Depth?

However, in the field proper he uncovered seedling after seedling straight up, but still about an inch below the surface. He had planted two inches deep.

On their way: These corn seedlings still had a ways to go, but the crust over them was not extremely hard. With a shower last week, they probably emerged without problems. The question now becomes what about crops planted before last week's rain?

Two things likely bailed him out. First, he received rain during the Wednesday round of thunderstorms last week. Second, his soil is a loam soil that even though it crusts, doesn't crust as hard as a low organic matter, 'while', somewhat poorly drained Crosby soil.

The problem now is what about corn planted last week before the heavy rain. Some places in central Indiana, near Lebanon, received more than three inches Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the soils in that area contain more clay in the surface soil and tend to be more prone to crusting. Time will tell if it dries out and warms up, if the soil bakes the rows shut over the seedling, or if they can come through.

Related: This Spring is All about Seed Depth

Looking for tiny, emerging seedlings is more delicate than looking for seeds. The row may be almost obliterated by the past heavy rain and soil movement in conventional or minimum tillage conditions.

Once you start scratching away at the surface, it takes patience to find the germinated coleoptiles pushing through the soil without breaking them off. You will also likely find some weed seedlings germinating and trying to break through the soil surface as well.

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