Farm Horizons, June 2015

Early planting season due to dry spring

By Dave Schwartz
Certified crop advisor, Gold Country Seed

As I write this article (May 11), our crop is off to one of the best starts in years.

Growers tell me this was one of the best springs in years to plant their crops. Soil was unusually mellow, and corn planters began to roll by mid-April.

This is quite a contrast to the past two growing seasons, when much of the crop in Wright County was mudded in from the end of May through the 4th of July.

This year, the majority of the corn acres in Meeker County were planted by May 1; and more than 50 percent of the soybean acres were planted by May 7, when the droughty weather broke.

How dry was our spring? Rainfall in Litchfield for the months of March and April totaled 1.41 inches, which is only 35 percent of normal.

As far north as we are in the corn belt, dry springs are usually a good thing, as we are able to get the crop planted on time. Full-season hybrids planted in mid-April should mature well before a killing frost in fall, and these early planting dates should reduce corn drying costs next fall.

Very early planting dates do put more pressure on herbicides to control weeds. Spring tillage normally takes out the first flush of weeds.

That will not be the case in fields that were planted in mid-April. Soil temperatures had not risen to the level where weed seeds began to germinate, so we may see a bit more weed pressure in the earliest planted fields.

Most growers are now using two herbicide applications, that provide two modes of action. Glyphosate is weakening on broadleaf weeds, so a second herbicide application is necessary to clean up broadleaf weeds that are developing tolerance or resistance to Glyphosate.

One key to weed control is the timing of the application. I have always advocated to err on the early side with post emergence herbicide applications. Weeds are much easier to control when they are less than 4 inches tall. Rescue treatments are expensive, and often provide only marginal weed control.

Of course, most of the growing season is ahead of us, but at this point, we are off to a great start.

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