Cold weather and rainy conditions have a lot of farmers worried about getting their planting started, but Ken Ferrie, a Farm Journal Field Agronomist, says ensuring field conditions are ideal is far more important than hitting a particular start date.
“The biggest mistake guys make is with tillage,” he says. “We know if we work the field it’ll dry out, but then we find a lot of compaction issues showing up in July and August.”
Soil compaction is a major issue that results from farmers deciding to plant ‘on time’ as opposed to when the ground is ready. If you employ spring tillage, check the field before entering it with any heavy equipment.
“Dig down to tillage depth, ball up the soil from that depth and try to ribbon it between your fingers,” Ferrie says, “If it extends one inch past your fingers that will cause compaction issues when tilling.”
Cold soil temperature could also be an issue, causing damage to seeds and young plants, ultimately limiting the yield.
“One of the challenges of planting in soils that are 7° C (45° F) or lower is seed chilling,” Ferrie says. “When the corn seed imbibes, the temperature of the water it takes in has an effect on the seed itself. Water under 10° C (50° F) means that when swelling takes place the cells aren’t as elastic and they tear, which can cause disoriented mesocotyl, no sprouting, etc. It might not kill the plant completely, but effects could show up in ear count.”
As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue. Don’t let what you may perceive as a late start date in the spring limit your yield in the fall.