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Who Will Lose the Planting Lottery?

Who Will Lose the Planting Lottery?
Nearly every Hoosier planting season has a couple days not to plant.

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.

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