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Early or Late Corn Planting in Store?

Early expectations were for a likely repeat of last year's cool, wet spring in much of the Corn Belt. Rightfully so, considering temperatures have been running as much as 20°F. below normal for this time of year.

But is Old Man Winter finally packing up and getting out? It's been chilly, but more seasonal conditions are on their way, and the warmup to average or above-average temps will have tires turning in the field soon, experts say.

"Saturday should feature mainly dry weather across the Midwest with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Sunday will bring even warmer temperatures to the Corn Belt with western areas likely to top out in the lower 70s! Even the Ohio Valley will soar into the 50s," according to Harvey Freese of Freese-Notis Weather. "Monday, a cold front will drag colder air into the western Midwest with warmest temperatures farther east ahead of the front."

Though Freese says this warmup will make rainfall more common in parts of the region, that's not going to do much to delay fieldwork from kicking up as long as temperatures don't surge too hard, says Dave Rahe, a Hillsboro, Illinois-based agronomist and certified crop adviser.

"I don't see that as an issue at this point. If we continue on the dry side, I expect to see planting started in our area the week of April 7, no matter what the soil temperature. I have said it here before. Modern seed treatments and good seed corn can sit in cold ground for a while," Rahe says. "Warm and wet creates problems. So does rain immediately after planting. Ideally, we should not plant corn the day before a big rain. With uncertainties about the planting window, that may be difficult."

Still, there's a lot of ground to make up, temperature-wise, between now and the time planting can really get underway, farmers say. The depth of the frost line has some looking at the necessity of a quick, sustained warmup if the planters are to roll on schedule.

"Just came in from clearing some brush along a line fence. Drove the tractor/loader across a chisel-plowed field and got very little mud on the tires. Ground is still frozen," says Marketing Talk senior contributor lsc76cat. "Will be a different story this weekend since we may hit low 60s on Sunday."



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