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Sponsored: Too Hot, Too Cold…Just Right

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks. She went for a walk in the forest and pretty soon, she came upon a house.  She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in. Why on earth a little girl was wandering alone in a forest, and breaking into a stranger’s home is anyone’s guess…but everyone knows what happens next. She tried some porridge, sat in some chairs, and then proceeded to lay down in these stranger’s beds until she found one that was “just right.”

This famous Goldilocks, albeit a little crazy, was actually onto something. Just like the three bowls of porridge she tested until she found one that was just right, farmers need to find the corn planting date that is “just right” for their fields. Plant too early and you’ll be facing cold, wet soils that result in a less than acceptable plant stands and uneven emergence. Plant too late and you risk substantial yield loss and a delayed harvest.

But if you can find that sweet spot – early enough to maximize your crops exposure to sunlight, heat, and moisture, but late enough that your soil conditions are right, well then your golden (no pun intended).

Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team has been conducting their corn planting date study for 16 years to help farmers determine the optimum planting date window by planting on multiple dates across multiple regions throughout the Midwest. This 16-year data suggests that planting corn in the month of April produces the highest returns.

3.14_PFR Proven Planting Date

While farmers are well aware of the concept of early planting, the unusually warm conditions many experienced throughout late February and early March has left many tempted to get out to the fields earlier than ever. A general rule of thumb is to always err on the side of earlier planting, but to wait until your certain conditions are conducive to healthy emergence and there is little risk of a damaging frost after emergence.

The benefits of earlier planting include earlier crop establishment (which leads to an earlier flowering window) and beating the summer heat during crucial reproductive stages. This is important because the deeper we get into summer, the more likely we are to experience hot, droughty weather that is less than ideal for plant pollination.

In 2016, Beck’s Ohio PFR team observed that the earlier May planting date not only had the highest yields, but that all the plants emerged within 42 hours of planting. The plants in the June 8 planting date, however, took 84 hours to emerge. This planting date was not only the latest planted plot, but it also saw the lowest yields.

3.14_Ohio Results

The later plants emerge, the more impact there is on pollination timing and ultimately yield. The data in the graph below demonstrates the lasting ramifications of uneven emergence at the June 8 planting date for Ohio PFR. Later planting dates typically see more variation in silking and tasseling occurring simultaneously as the emergence window widens. This is another reason why our goal should be to plant earlier and have all our plants emerged within 24 hours.

3.14_Ohio Planting Observations

3.14_Ohio Emergence Impact

So what planting date is just right? Of Beck’s six PFR sites, four sites have consistently shown that the optimum planting date window for corn is between April 16 and April 30, as this timeframe has provided the best combination of final population and length of growing season to achieve the highest yield.

Click the links below to determine the optimal planting date window for your area.

The important thing to remember is that though crucial, your planting date is not the only yield influencing factor in a given year. Yield loss due to delayed planting is relative to the maximum possible yield in a given year – so be sure to check the extended forecasts, ensure your planting into optimal conditions, take advantage of seed treatments and in-furrow fungicides and/or insecticides, and scout early and often.

If you have any questions about this data or the best planting date for your area, please consult your local Beck’s representative.


Beck’s PFR is the largest source of unbiased, cutting-edge agronomic information in the industry. More than 110 different studies were conducted in 2016, comparing over 150 products across multiple locations to learn how different management practices and new technologies perform in field environments. In evaluating agronomic practices and input products, not comparing seed products, Beck’s PFR aims to help farmers maximize their input dollars and increase their bottom line. To view more studies from the 2016 PFR book, click here .

Practical Farm Research (PFR)® is a registered trademark of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc.

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