Planting is the most important trip you’ll make across your fields each year. Some of the biggest and most impactful steps you can take toward reaching your yield potential are completed as soon as your planter leaves the field.
Corn can germinate at 50° Fahrenheit, which is one reason that soil temperature is important. Don’t get underway with planting until the average daily temperature reaches 50° and future temperatures are predicted to be adequate for maintaining or increasing that soil temperature.
Soil moisture is also critical for proper germination and uniform crop emergence. By placing corn seed into adequate moisture, you have a greater chance of achieving even germination and emergence. During drought years, pre-irrigating soils can eliminate moisture deficit problems. In wet years, be careful driving equipment across the field so you don’t create added soil compaction.
Keep a close watch on upcoming weather and how it could affect planted seed. For example, if heavy rains are in the forecast, it may be a good idea to delay planting for a slightly later date. Wait to begin planting until future frost chances are low.
Soil type should also be a consideration when planting. Sandy soils tend to warm up faster than clay soils and have less nutrient and water holding capacity. In some cases, it may be better to plant the sandy soil fields first, as those soils may be drier and warmer.
Some fields are prone to crusting issues. If that sounds like some of your fields, consider planting when less rainfall is in the forecast. Keep in mind that scouting emergence issues and taking appropriate action can usually help to alleviate crusting.
Choose corn hybrids rated high in seedling vigor in order to establish the uniform final population desired. This is especially important on farms with a history of soil crusting or when hard rains and high temperatures are in the forecast.
Because corn seed imbibes 30% of its weight in water to achieve germination, corn should be a half-inch below the soil moisture line to ensure adequate moisture is available. Most seed companies and agronomists agree that corn seed should be planted at a depth between 1.5 inches and 2.5 inches. This depth will ensure that the nodal roots will develop at least 3/4 of an inch below the soil surface.
The nodal roots are critical to the healthy establishment of the corn plant’s root system, as they supply the plant with nearly all nutrients during the first two weeks of seedling emergence. When the nodal roots are exposed to heat and air the root system can become compromised, reducing nutrient availability and resulting in yield reduction.
Firm seed-to-soil contact is essential. This will protect against inhibited root growth due to air pockets in the soil and will assist in water availability to begin germination.
When planting dates are later than in previous years, some farmers are prone to rush, often planting into soil conditions that are less than ideal. Any yield loss seen from later planting is often less costly than the soil issues that can result from early planting into poor conditions.
Crop residue can impact seed depth, seed-to-soil contact and soil temperature. “Hairpinning” corn seed into previous crop residue is a common problem when planting into both no-till cropping systems and conventional tillage. This can result in skips of the final stand and cause delayed seedling emergence.
Keep all these factors in mind, but remember that common sense plays an important role in determining what is best for every scenario.
Always have your planting equipment in the best condition possible. Take time to check behind the planter and make any adjustments necessary to accomplish your final stand population. Monitors do not find all planter issues.
And when in doubt, remember that making the right planting decisions is what helps you reach your maximum yield potential.
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