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Will You Plant Corn Late? Here Are 5 Tips to Net Optimal Yields

Jeff Caldwell 04/23/2014 @ 11:59am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

There's mounting evidence to support the idea that this spring might be a repeat of last year's cool, wet season that had some farmers planting corn and soybeans well into June.

The last few days have seen about the best planting conditions of the season thus far. But the window will likely slide shut over the next few days in the Midwest, with rain building from the central and northern Plains to the central Corn Belt. That will be a welcome shift for the parched former area, but planting delays will continue in the latter.

"The biggest delays will be in the west-central Midwest. Some planting may occur in the eastern Midwest this weekend as rains become a bit more limited there at that time," says Don Keeney, senior ag meteorologist with MDA Weather Services. "Additional widespread rains in the Midwest along with cooler temperatures early next week will maintain slow planting. Rains in Nebraska, northern Colorado, central and eastern Kansas, and eastern Oklahoma will help improve moisture a bit there for winter wheat."

Drought pressure will remain strong, Keeney adds, in areas that will likely miss the showers: western Kansas, southeast Colorado, western Oklahoma, and northwest Texas.

This trend unfolding over the next few days and weeks is reminiscent of last spring, when farmers in parts of the Midwest were so far delayed by rain and cool temperatures they ended up leaving some acres unplanted. Looking toward May -- the most critical corn-planting month -- the most common refrain among weather watchers is now one of similarly cool, wet conditions.

"Our outlook for May shifted cooler for the Midwest but was unchanged for rainfall. From a planting perspective, this pattern would support the best seeding progress from the Southeast into the eastern Midwest, while the Delta and western Midwest will see the most frequent interruptions but do not appear severely wet," according to a seasonal outlook released by the Commodity Weather Group (CWG) on Tuesday. "The Midwest moisture will remain welcome to support both early corn/soybean growth."

The moisture will be a welcome occurrence for newly planted corn and soybeans, but the corresponding temperatures won't be, adds Keeney.

"Showers in the Midwest would maintain sufficient moisture for corn and soybean growth," he says. "The cool conditions in the Midwest will keep corn and soybean growth a bit slow."

Don't be alarmed by these kinds of conditions yet, though. Ohio State University Extension agronomist Peter Thomison says though his state's well behind planting pace thus far, it's not time to hit the panic button yet.

"I’m really not surprised that we’re not seeing more corn planted,” Thomison says in a university report. “We’ve had a wet April so far, but in previous planting seasons, we’ve experienced wet Aprils with conditions then turning warmer and dry and growers able to get planting done normally. This early rain pattern is not at all unusual. Conditions could be better, but there really is no need for concern yet.”

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