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Rain Is on the Way; Resist Urge to Mud It In -- Expert

This weekend rolls around with a lot of planters parked and a few nerves starting to rattle as the tail end of the optimal corn planting window nears. The Corn Belt has a lot of acres yet to sow after a week of showers sharply slowed the progress that was steaming forward quickly the previous week. 

If you find yourself with a fair number of acres yet to plant and time starting to run short on your farm, make sure you look at all the factors: existing soil conditions, the weather forecast, how much you have left to plant and other fieldwork you have to do yet. Then hatch a plan for how to proceed from today forward.

Though not the totals expected a week ago, this week's rain has certainly put a dent in planting progress. In the next 10 days, more rain is expected, though nothing in excess of 1.5 to 2 inches total. Although temperatures may dip again, no major planting delays are expected as a result, says MDA senior ag meteorologist Don Keeney.

"Rains have finally returned to the northwestern Midwest and northern Plains, and much more rainfall is expected there later this weekend and again later next week. Thus, additional improvements in moisture are expected, which will favor corn and soybean germination and will also favor spring wheat germination as planting increases across the northern Plains. The rains will be most beneficial in South Dakota and Minnesota. However, rains will also continue to ease remaining dryness across southern Iowa, Missouri, north-central Illinois, northern Indiana, and Michigan," Keeney says Friday. 

"The rains will slow planting a bit, although no major issues are expected. Meanwhile, the continued lack of notable rains in the southeastern Midwest and northeastern Delta through the middle of next week will allow planting there to progress very well. Current warm temperatures are favoring corn and soybean germination, but readings should cool this weekend and next week," he reports. 

If that outlook is far from what you want to hear and you're itching to plant corn, try to keep the impulse to mud it in at bay, one expert says. Though easier said than done, Purdue University Extension agronomist Bob Nielsen says it's more important to get your seed in the ground when conditions are right even if it isn't during the time considered best for planting.

"Estimated yield loss per day with delayed planting varies from about 0.3% per day early in May to about 1% per day by the end of May. Yield potential goes down with delayed planting due to a number of factors, including a shorter growing season; greater insect and disease pressure; and higher risk of hot, dry conditions during pollination," he says. "The good news is that planting date is only one of many yield-influencing factors (YIFs) for corn. If all the other YIFs work together to determine that the maximum possible yield this year for the optimal planting date is 220 bushels per acre, then the consequence of a 10-day planting delay beyond April 30 (at 0.3% decrease per day) would be a yield potential of about 213 bushels per acre (i.e., 220-bushel potential minus [10 days x 0.3%] due to delayed planting). However, if all the other YIFs work together to determine that the maximum possible yield this year for the optimal planting date is only 150 bushels per acre, then the consequence of a 10-day planting delay beyond May 1 (at 0.3% decrease per day) would be a yield potential of about 146 bushels per acre (i.e., 150-bushel-per-acre potential minus [10 days x 0.3%] due to delayed planting)."

That's the general scenario as it pertains to yield potential based on the calendar. Throw in other variables like soil temperature, seeding rates, and other fieldwork you may need to do this spring, and the decision becomes an easier one to reach, Nielsen adds.

"Furthermore, since delayed planting by itself is no guarantee of lower ABSOLUTE grain yield, I see little reason to change any crop inputs because of delayed planting, other than possibly seeding rates. Delayed planting generally coincides with warmer soil temperatures compared to early planting. Consequently, stand establishment may be more successful with delayed planting, resulting in established plant populations that are closer to actual seeding rates than the usual 90% to 95% success rate with earlier planting dates. So, you might consider slightly reducing your seeding rates with delayed planting," he says. "When faced with prospects of delayed planting, one should certainly look for ways to expedite the planting process by eliminating unnecessary tillage trips or delaying some field operations because there is no reason to purposefully plant any later than necessary."

Still, farmers say that's easier said than done. Potential rain delays are starting to weigh more heavily on some farmers' minds; though the optimal corn planting time frame has yet to end in many spots, it's getting close. While experts say mudding in a crop will do more damage than waiting for drier, more favorable field conditions, concerns remain.

"The field check last evening revealed enough drying to maybe all but mud in the last of the corn," says Agriculture.com Marketing Talk adviser Hobbyfarmer. "No beans planted yet either. Two nice shower events in the last two hours fixed that. It will be late at best with more rain expected through Sunday."

Adds Marketing Talk contributor westernia80: "Fifty percent done with corn here, no beans. Started up yesterday noon and got 10 acres done and got a shower. Then got 2.25 inches last night. It is going to be a while."

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