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Don’t panic about planting

There’s still time to optimize yield

A cool, wet April has kept Iowa farmers from an early start to planting, but there’s still time to get optimal yield this growing season.

“This year has been a little bit different than we have previously experienced here in Iowa,” says Andrew Penney, a technical agronomist for DeKalb Asgrow. “For the most part, we deal with cooler, wetter soils in April, but around April 10 to 15 we start warming up a little.”

Rains and cool temperatures could keep soil temperatures below the 50˚F. threshold as late as May 1, Penney says. However, planting date will not typically affect yield potential until closer to mid-May.

“We’re still OK when it comes to reaching our maximum yield potential,” Penney says. “Nowadays, with 24-row planters and high-speed planters, farmers can get their corn in the ground pretty quickly.”

Farmers should consider the cooler planting conditions when choosing products, Penney says. “It will be critical for farmers to focus on the products that have really good early-season vigor and can tolerate the cooler soils,” Penney says. “It doesn’t take much to decrease a plant stand and have that impact yield, so this is the type of thing that can decrease your overall maximum yield potential from day one.”

Temperatures and product choice should be considered when determining plant populations.

“There are certain corn products that probably don’t need an increase in population,” Penney says. “If you need to plant some products that wouldn’t be recommended this early, I would consider an increase in your population.”

While soil temperatures are cool, Penney suggests farmers focus on soybeans. Even in the current conditions, aiming for 150,000 plants per acre is sufficient.

“It’s common to lose 20,000 to 40,000 plants per acre,” Penney says. “Soybeans are so much more forgiving when it comes to early season planting. We can have a final stand of 90,000 seeds [per acre] and still reach 100% yield.”

Watching the weather forecast prior to planting is also essential, Penney says.

“Farmers should try to steer clear of planting into cool soils anytime there’s a chance for a decent amount of rain within 24 to 48 hours,” he says. “It’s one thing for seeds to be sitting in cool soil and slowly imbibe water. It’s another to be sitting in cold soil and get a nice, cold rain on top of that seed.”

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