Farm Horizons, April 2015

Early planting date is key to high grain yields

By Dave Schwartz, Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

The past two years, growers in the Farm Horizons distribution area have suffered from extremely wet springs that delayed spring fieldwork. Last year, I recall one of my customers planting corn yet on June 10.

Wright County was hit as hard as any county in the state with heavy rains in May and early June. It appears at the time I am writing this article, March 19, that this could be an early spring and growers may have an opportunity to get the crop planted early. Early planting dates often play a role in high grain yields.

University of Minnesota Extension Service research shows the optimum planting date for corn, in the southern regions of Minnesota, is April 28 through May 1. So, does this mean corn planted before April 28 yields less? No. We don’t see a yield advantage with planting dates before April 28, but not a yield drag either.

The other thing you can count on with corn planted in April is dry grain in the fall. I have heard many growers over the years tell me, year in and year out; their earliest planted corn was their best. We need to remember we are in the northern corn belt, so early planting dates are key for optimum yield.

I encourage growers to plant corn on soybean ground first before planting any continuous corn. We found out again this past year how well continuous corn handles stress in spring.

University of Minnesota research finds soybean yields peak out with early planting dates, too. In our area, the optimum planting date for soybean is in the May 1 through May 5 range.

The advantage of early planted soybeans is more vegetative growth resulting in more nodes per plant. It’s a good idea to use a seed treatment on soybean seed planted in April and early May. The emergence and pollination stages are the two most critical growth stages for plants. So, whatever can be done to reduce stress during these stages of growth should improve grain yield.

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