If you’re reading this, chances are wet, cold and winter-like weather has decided to make another appearance in your region this spring. Areas of the northern Corn Belt saw feet, not inches, of snow recently, and unseasonal cool temperatures have kept most growers out of the field in other parts. Our growers in the South even experienced weather-related delays. Needless to say, this spring has not been kind to our early planting plans, but not all hope is lost to achieve high yields this year. Consider these tips.
- Don’t stray from your hybrids just yet. Corn grows according to Growing Degree Units. Once planted and out of the ground, it’s reasonable to assume that we will accumulate heat units faster than in normal seasons because of the late time frame with a faster warm-up period. Because of this, growers should consider sticking with their optimum maturity window for their region. If adjustments are made, they should be minor. For example, instead of planting a 100-day hybrid, a grower might consider planting a 95-day hybrid. Another consideration for growers in the southern regions would be to plant their full-season hybrids first (112–116 days) and then move to their shorter season maturities toward the end of planting.
- Don’t worry about soybeans. When it comes to soybeans, no changes are warranted because soybeans are a daylight-sensitive crop. Normal maturities should be planted.
- Be patient — don’t plant into cool, wet soil. Planting into cool, wet soil can result in problems that can last all summer. These include:
- Sidewall compaction — Sidewall compaction can greatly reduce root penetration and development. This will cause issues later during the growing season when moisture and nutrient uptake will be affected, causing stunted plants and yield loss.
- Soil stratification — Soil stratification can occur when planting into wet soil and causes immobile nutrients like phosphorus and potassium to collect in layers within the soil, which may be above or below the root zone of the plant.
- Extreme chilling — Freshly planted seed can imbibe in the cold moisture and cause extreme chilling, which can lead to a host of issues during growing season, including causing the seed to become non-viable and not germinate.
- Crown Stress — Cold water being translocated through the crown of the plant can also cause crown stress, which damages the vascular tissue of the corn that is needed for grain fill to move moisture and nutrients to the plant. Plants impacted by crown stress often display symptoms of drought stress or nutrient deficiency.
- Deoxygenation — Deoxygenation becomes an issue when seed is planted into waterlogged soil. This occurs when all the air space in the soil structure has been squeezed out by moisture. After heavy rains, when soil is saturated, make sure that proper germination has occurred and that the seedlings are beginning to elongate toward emergence.
A good test to determine if your soil is dry enough for planting is to remove soil from 5–6-inch depth and form it into a ball. If the ball crumbles in your hand when squeezed, it is optimum for planting. However, it the ball fractures in chunks, it is still too wet and caution should be used.
- Carefully weigh your last-resort options. If planting into cool, wet soils is your last resort, I recommend growers use a starter fertilizer to encourage good root development and overall plant health. Hybrid selection is also important. Choose hybrids that have a proven performance germinating and emerging in cool soils with very good early vigor scores. Planting depth should remain normal, between 1.5–2-inch range. After planting, perform a short strip dig to make sure that seed is at a depth around the knuckle of your index finger. This should have you pretty close to the proper seeding depth for maximum emergence and the necessary root growth the plant will need during the growth season.
- Scout all season long. Insect pressure could be greater because soils will warm faster than in normal years. Additional scouting should be considered.
For more tips this planting season, contact your local Stine sales agronomist.