Another spring will soon be upon us in the Midwest which many of us know as planning season. The adoption of new technologies to improve quality and yields faster than ever before, with each new advance allowing us to be more efficient, productive, and environmentally responsible.

Researchers across the industry continue to analyze some of the key factors that come together for increasing yields efficiently in our region. They have concluded that planting date is possibly the most important controllable management factor in Corn.

Advances in equipment, seed treatment technology, drainage improvements, reduced tillage technology, and stress tolerance in hybrids have enabled us to continually shift to earlier plantingdates. These continually evolving technologies have enabled us to grow longer season hybrids that we know will yield more per acre if we can manage them to reach physiological maturity.

Farmers across the upper Midwest are planting about 2 weeks earlier now than they did in the 1970’s. Corn will not germinate below 50 degrees F soil temperature. The seed, however, will still absorb water regardless of soil temperature. If the seed sits too long absorbing water without germination, plant populations will suffer, especially if the seed is not treated. In a dry spring with normal temperatures, planting on the back side of 50 degrees shouldn’t be a problem. In a wet spring with cool temperatures, however, seed borne problems will be more common and soil warmup is more important. If you’re a Certified Organic grower, and/or you’re not using seed treaters, you should make sure soil temperature is holding near or above the 50 degree target throughout the day and night.

Other factors are driven by that magical 50 degree mark…nitrogen and phosphorus mineralization rates, for example, are significantly slower under 50 than over 50. The reason is that microbial action, which is the key component of availability, doesn’t begin until the soil is warmed above 50. With the trend to earlier planting, the value of starter fertilizer, even at very low rates with precise placement is greatly enhanced. As little as 30 lbs of N per acre, properly placed in the band, can significantly effect emergence and early development. If you’re not using chemical fertilizers, organic sources that are high in immediately available N (eg: poultry manure based) will have the same positive effect.

It’s true that in certain years, planting too early can cause negative results relative to emergence and population; but it’s been consistently shown that if you’re selecting long season hybrids for yield, you’ll greatly increase your chances of achieving yield potential, test weight, dry down, and timeliness of harvest by planting as early as possible.

Learn more from these interesting and helpful links:

Here’s an interesting report from 1965 “Usual Planting and Harvesting Dates” from the National Agricultural Library, Digital Collections from the USDA (showing just how far we’ve come) Usual Planting Dates – 1965

A Great Site for General Integrated Crop Management Topics -> Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management Program

Upcoming Events:

AMES, Iowa – The second annual Iowa Small Farms Conference will be held Feb. 11, 2017 in Ames, Iowa. Dan Perkins of Perkins’ Good Earth Farm will be the featured speaker along with a wide variety of track options and a trade show. 2017 Iowa Small Farm Conference to be Held in February