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Let traders panic late planting

Gil Gullickson 04/29/2013 @ 2:27pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Worries over delayed corn planting has fueled a late-April corn futures surge. Let the grain traders sweat this one, though. You still have plenty of time to plant corn in the relative maturity range you’ve picked for 2013.

“It pays to be patient and not work or plant when soil conditions are too wet,” says Jeff Hartz, director of marketing for Wyffels Hybrids.

A day delay at planting does not equate to an equal delay in fall physiological maturity.

 “Corn has a real amazing ability to compensate when planted late,” Hartz says. “Most research shows a day in April or May is not equal to June, July, and August when it comes to growing degree units (GDUs). Those three summer months are when corn packs on the majority of its GDUs.”

Rather than planting date, a better way to maximize a hybrid’s yield potential is planting into a dry seedbed with a 50-degree or higher soil temperature.

“In wet and cold soils, corn just sits there,” he says. “That opens up all kinds of problems like seedling blight and sidewall compaction. It pays to have temperatures warm enough for quick emergence.”

Uneven emergence fueled by planting into excessively wet and cold soils is a yield killer. University of Minnesota tests show fields with stands where every other plant is delayed two leaf stages tallied 83% of yields of fields with uniform stands.

There does come a point, though, when you have to consider other options, such as switching to an earlier maturing hybrid. Still, that doesn’t even become a relevant option until late May.

“When you move to a shorter relative maturity, you will sacrifice some yield potential,” says Hartz. As an example, later planting of a full-season hybrid for your area may garner just 95% of its initial yield potential. Still, it may yield more than a shorter maturing hybrid yielding 100% of its yield potential.

“When we look back at some years with late planting—1992, 2002, and 2009—we had some of the best yields in those years,” says Hartz.

“The most important thing is to make sure soil conditions are right when you plant corn. That trumps calendar date. At the end of May, we may need to think about other options, but for now, be patient.”

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