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Planters rolling; is the time right?

Jeff Caldwell 04/09/2012 @ 10:45am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

The trade expects that, by the time USDA releases its weekly Crop Progress report Monday afternoon, farmers will have made some pretty major strides planting corn and the numbers will reflect a fairly busy week in the field for many. If the Agriculture.com community's any indication, those numbers could show it's been a busy week for a lot of farmers.

Progress ranges between not having started yet to being near completion. Most farmers report progress between those 2 extremes, though, most in the lower range. While some see the early jump on planting to be key to avoiding problems like those experienced the last couple of years, with late planting and related yield loss, others are still hesitant to get too much done too early.

"Everyone is planting in central Indiana. Probably 15% done. We waited to start until today and will only do a 50 today to test out all the new shiny paint and computers. It is early," Agriculture.com Marketing Talk veteran contributor time:thetippingpoint said Saturday. "Amazing how everyone forgets that corn planted before April 10 in Indiana is never the best corn."

Adds Marketing Talk advisor Nebrfarmr: "Everyone around here seems to be waiting for April 10, the earliest planting date for crop insurance and replant."

But, if you're right around your early planting date, the risk of losing a crop not covered by insurance to a late freeze is probably not worth the small time window you may have to wait out, says University of Wisconsin corn agronomist Joe Lauer. Planting too early, according to research Lauer led 2 years ago, can have the same effect on yield as planting late in some cases.

"The earliest we have ever planted corn [in a trial] was during 2010 in a trial designed to test the effect of seed treatments on early season stress. In that trial, we planted March 31, April 14 and May 18," Lauer says. "It gives us some sense of what might happen with March planting. The average yield for each respective planting date among all of the treatments was 227, 238 and 227 bushels/acre."

Lauer also repeats a common refrain so far this spring, but one that is of utmost importance to corn yield potential. If you plant early -- whether covered by crop insurance or not -- and your fields get nipped by a late freeze, the seed corn you get for replanting may not be the best option.

"The biggest concern in a replant situation is hybrid choice of the replanted hybrid. Can I replace the hybrid I chose? If I have to settle for another hybrid, what is the yield penalty of the alternative hybrid? What is the yield penalty of the later planting date? What about the 'double whammy' of lower yield AND higher grain moisture?" he says. "Patience is key here. You only get one chance to do things right in a field. Be ready to go. Get as much of your spring work done as you can. Waiting until the crop insurance dates kick in is not unreasonable."

   

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