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It Pays to Park the Planter

05/08/2013 @ 9:10am

Although farmers are going to get into the fields later than they had hoped, it’s not “too late.”  Research shows that early planting dates do not ensure high yields just as late planting doesn't foretell low yields.  Early planting dates lead to higher yield only when conditions are fit for planting.

Planting in “fit conditions” is far more important than the date on the calendar.  Fit planting conditions include warm, moist soils at the proper planting depth and speed.  It’s important for soil temperatures to remain at least 50 degrees consistently.

Due to fluctuating soil temperatures, seed corn that doesn't get in the ground until early to mid-May could have higher yields than the corn that was planted in April.  Iowa State University Corn Specialist Roger Elmore reminds us that Iowa soil temperatures ranged from 58-64°Fahrenheit on April 26, 2012.  By April 29, 2012, soil temperatures dropped to 49-53°F across the state.  

This swing in temperatures, coupled with rain at that time, resulted in many reports of lower relative yields for corn planted between April 22-26, 2012, than corn that was planted later.

A similar weather pattern happened this spring.  On April 30, 2013, soil temperatures were above 50 degrees across Iowa.  We even saw 60 degree soil temps in Central Iowa that day. Snow and snow melt reduced soil temperatures by 20 to 25 degrees as of May 6.

It will be interesting to see how yields compare to corn planted in late April to corn planted in mid-May this year.  It's likely more yield will be lost based on soil conditions than on the calendar date.

Planting in wet soils leads to compaction, often times resulting in uneven emergence and poor stands.  Click here to see why it’s so important to avoid wet soils.

Remember:  The majority of yield is determined during planting.  Good things come to those who wait for the right seedbed conditions!  

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Farm Science Review, Day Two