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How to Prepare for Planting in a Cool Spring

How to Prepare for Planting in a Cool Spring
Take steps that will let crops have the best chance possible in cool soils.

Mark Lawson lives by this philosophy: Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems at the time. The caveat to that is to prepare and don't let emotions get the best of you.

Lawson, Danville, puts most of his farm in test plots these days, and is a technical agronomist for Syngenta. "My advice is to plan for cooler than normal conditions as you get ready to plant," he says. "If it warms up you're still not going to hurt yourself, and you will be in better shape if it stays cool."

Weather forecasts call for cooler than normal temperatures for the next two months, although deviations below normal are much less than in the first few brutal months of the year.

Monitor growth: One of the first steps for no-tillers this spring may be to kill cover crops at the right time. They need to be green and growing to get good kill, Mark Lawson says.

Related: Spring Brings Potential For Delayed Planting

For no-tillers the first decision they will have to make is when to kill their cover crop. Since crop insurance rules have been clarified, you don't have to kill the cover before you plant if you don't want to in 2014.

"Don't get in too big of a hurry to kill the cover crop with a burndown herbicide application," Lawson says. This may not be a year where you can go by recommendations often made according to the calendar. Growth is starting off slower than normal due to cooler temperatures coming out of winter and into early spring.

You want some growth on cover crops in the spring to get the benefits, he notes. Non-legumes provide rooting benefits, and legumes like crimson clover can produce nitrogen with some time to grow.

Related: 8-Point Last-Minute Spring Planting Checklist

"The biggest thing is to make sure the cover crop has broken dormancy before you try to kill it," he says. "If it hasn't broken dormancy and isn't growing well, you will have a much harder time killing it. One of the things you need to burn down cover corps is for them to be growing."

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