Farm Horizons, April 2012

Corn planting considerations

By Dave Schwartz, Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

A number of years ago when I worked with the extension service, I was asked to do a radio show with Cliff Mitchell and Dale Hicks.

Cliff had been with the Albany radio station for 50 years, and Dale had been with University of Minnesota for 40 years as extension corn agronomist. They were truly legends in their own time. It was a radio program I will never forget.

Anyhow, Cliff asked Dale if he could plant all his corn one day, what it would be. Dale’s answer was, the last day of April (30). By then, soil temperatures have warmed up, and growers still have optimum corn yield potential.

By May 1, studies have shown corn yields start to decline very slightly.

Jeff Coulter, current corn agronomist at the U of M, who replaced Dale, put together a chart that shows optimum corn planting dates at Lamberton for the 15 year period 1988-2003. Over this period of time, April 28 was found to be the optimum planting date for corn, although planting from April 21 to May 6 provided corn yields within 1 percent of maximum.

Optimum corn planting dates for Wright County may be two or three days later than Lamberton.

What this tells me is corn planted by the first few days of May has optimum yield potential for our area. Corn planted April 20 will most likely have lower grain moisture, but not more yield.

The other question I have answered many, many times in my career centers on depth of planting. At one time, I felt it was wise to plant more shallow with very early planting dates, to keep the seed in warmer and dryer soil. However, I have observed problems with shallow planting in the form of poor brace root development. I have come to the conclusion corn should be planted 2 inches deep in nearly all situations.

As I write this article (March 19), it appears we may be in the field earlier than normal. If soil moisture is limited at planting time, consider less tillage to conserve moisture; this can improve seed germination and improve stands.

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