Seed corn reps who have been running plots tell us that in many cases in central and south-central Indiana, where the drought seemed to hit corn the hardest, later-planted corn is yielding better than early planted corn this year. By early planted corn, they are referring to fields planted on or before April 20. Later-planted corn was typically planted May 10 to May 20.
There are reams of test plot results from past years that indicate that early planting pays.
"I knew something was wrong when guys were planting corn in March this year, and it certainly turned out that something was wrong alright," one seedsman says. "The weather was out of whack, and it stayed that way."
One seedsman reports that a field averaging 140 bushels per acre in south-central Indiana would likely have made half or less if it had been planted by April 20. The farmer confirms his theory, noting that corn in nearby fields planted in that time period topped out at about 70 bushels per acre. Rain delayed planting until May 14 in the field that yielded at roughly twice the rate.
Several hybrids were in the field, so it wasn't all a matter of which hybrids were there. However, it may have been a matter of pollinating, and when the corn reached critical stages. The temperature during pollination and early grain fill may have been as important as moisture content of the soils. The soils are poorly drained with silty clay loam underneath, so there was more moisture than on many other soil types. However, fields planted earlier in the April time frame still didn't perform well on similar soils in nearby locations, seedsmen say.
This may be one of those "note it, but don't copy it" years. There is still plenty of proof from Beck's Practical Farm Research results (and many other sources) that over a 10-year period, earlier corn planting vs. later planting pays dividends.