As we look at the past few weeks of wild weather across the country, from “bomb cyclones” to pouring rain and gusty winds, it’s easy to wonder when farmers will get to plant the 2019 crop. Much of the Corn Belt has saturated soils that have delayed all farming practices. The good news is that means there should be adequate soil moisture to germinate the seed and get the crop off to a great start.
Because of the soil moisture, there may be a tendency for some to plant corn and soybeans at a shallower depth than usual. Remember that corn requires a minimum of a 1.5 inch depth to allow the first set of nodal roots to establish below the soil surface. If planted at a shallower depth, standability and nutrient uptake could be limited, possibly impacting yields.
Soybeans are more forgiving than corn when it comes to planting depth. For beans, a 1 inch depth is adequate. It is important to note, however, that soybeans may be more susceptible to crusting problems. And for both corn and soybeans, planting into soils that are too wet can result in sidewall compaction, which can limit root growth, exposing seed in an unclosed furrow and creating seedling growth issues.
For many, soil temperatures are also approaching ideal conditions. In some areas, soil temperatures are still just below the 50 degrees Fahrenheit needed for corn production. But once those soil temperatures reach the required levels, corn and soybean planting will be off and running! Delayed planting may cause less yield loss than planting into less than optimum conditions. Each field must be considered on a case by case decision to determine when planting should be done.
While this has been one of the coldest springs on record, it will warm up. There’s no reason to switch corn or soybean varieties to shorter season choices yet. Switching to a shorter season corn hybrid can lower yield potential more than a later planting of the currently planned hybrid. Continue with your current herbicide program. Weeds also grow more slowly with the cooler temperatures.
When the weather cooperates and planting gets underway, farmers will be putting in extended hours. I am always amazed how much corn can be planted in such a short amount of time. Farm accidents can increase with such long hours of work. Remember to get adequate rest and stay alert during the upcoming planting season. Operating large equipment requires your full concentration. Your family, friends and neighbors will all appreciate your patience and keeping yourself healthy and safe during planting and throughout the season.