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Fields Not Fit for Planting

04/19/2013 @ 11:00pm

Daytime highs during the month of April haven’t been much warmer than the average lows for this time of year. As a result, soil temperatures haven’t warmed much during the last week. Plus, many fields are too wet to work after nearly a weeks’ worth of rains. 

As eager as everyone is to get corn planted early, we need to let soil temperatures and soil conditions – not the calendar – dictate planting dates. Early planting dates lead to higher yield only when conditions are fit for planting.

Optimal planting conditions include warm, moist soils. Right now soils are cold and wet. Soil temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees are recommended at corn planting time. But current 4-inch soil temperatures in Northwest Iowa are only averaging 36 degrees; they’re averaging 38 degrees in North Central Iowa. 

Soil temperature isn’t the only factor delaying the planting this spring. Iowa experienced its wettest week since July 2010 with a statewide average of 2.90 inches of rain, according to the April 15th crop report by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. 

Be sure to wait for “fit conditions” before getting your planter out of the shed. To avoid working soils that aren’t fit, there are 3 things for Midwest farmers to consider: 

  1. Be sure soil temperatures are at least 50 degrees before planting corn.
  2. Check the moderately long-range and long range weather forecast to ensure ambient air temperatures won’t freeze seedlings.
  3. Reduce or minimize soil compaction by: avoiding wet soils; reducing tillage; and using the right implements.

Working soils that are too wet leads to yield loss and more problems during the growing season from soil compaction. Restricted root development, nutrient deficiency and reduced infiltration rate are among the top 10 reasons to avoid soil compaction. For ways to reduce soil compaction, click here.

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