Farm Horizons, May 2007

Practice patience, prevent premature planting

It’s easy to talk about patience, but much more difficult to practice patience.

With all the corn acres being planted this spring, farmers will be anxious to begin planting. I would encourage growers to be patient and wait until soils are fit before planting corn and soybeans.

The chance of doing field work during the last week of April is approximately 50 percent, so it’s understandable why crop producers are anxious to get the crop planted as soon as possible.

Optimum corn yields are achieved when corn is planted early. Around May 1, potential corn yields may begin to decline very slightly, and the same is true for soybeans around May 20.

The dilemma that farmers face nearly every spring is waiting until fields are fit for tillage and planting the crop early enough to achieve optimum yields.

Over the years, I have seen many corn fields that were “mudded in” due to a rainy forecast or possibly the grower was held up by breakdowns and got behind. Whatever the reason, soils were too wet and the crop suffered.

Under these planting conditions, corn fields through tasseling are uneven, stunted, and yellow. It seems these fields never really recover.

I have seen similar symptoms in soybeans. Soils in these situations are compacted three to four inches below the soil surface to the point where it is difficult for a spade to penetrate. If a spade can’t penetrate the compacted layer, don’t expect roots to either.

Fields with high clay content are less forgiving in wet springs than loamy soils, so avoid planting these fields until they are in good condition.

A wise man once told me, “farmers should wait until they think fields are ready to plant, and then wait two additional days.” This might be a good rule of thumb to remember.

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