Saturday, April 25, 2015

Last week's Dilema: To Plant or Not to Plant Corn

I guess when it comes to us giving advice on planting corn, it comes down to risk and evaluating those risks.  So, our recommendation whether or not to plant corn is based on the following risks:

1.)    Our first priority is to consider seedbed conditions and not plant when soils are too wet as this can cause major problems such as compaction and hinder corn emergence, so “no go!” until the fields are dry! – MAJOR risk!

2.)    Planting into warm soils (at least 50F), have corn germination occur, then receive prolonged wet conditions (several days of rain) can cause the seed or seedling to be deprived of oxygen.  This is the most common problem that causes us to have to replant corn! High Risk! - Warm soils mean more rapid growth of seedlings, which can mean running out of oxygen sooner if soils become saturated.” – Dr. Emerson Nafziger

If possible, it would be ideal if we could plant into warm and dry soils, but the next best thing is cool and dry soils.
3.)    Not quite as much risk when you plant into cool soils and then get a few rain showers (not heavy or several days of rain) because the seed has not germinated.  However, the seed will continue to just remain in the soil.  If there continues to be rain, that seed (not germinated) will continue to be faced with disease issues.  In addition, possible pest injury could occur.  Medium Risk! - The chances of getting good emergence when planting into cool soils are higher if here is little or no rain between planting and emergence.” – Dr. Emerson Nafziger.  In addition, cool soils can lower the risk of soil crusting.

4.)    I can’t say that it won’t ever happen, but cold imbibtional injury (chilling injury) of corn is rare in Illinois. This has been a major concern in Northern Illinois and Wisconsin – remember we cover the Hughes Seed Territory too!  There was snow reported in Wisconsin last week!  As I explained in a recent blog, cold imbibitional injury will only occur if the seed has germinated.  The corn seed won’t germinate if the soil temp is below 50F.  If the seed has germinated, there is a slight risk of cold imbibitional injury, if the seed takes up snow/cold water 24 to 36 hours after germination.  This is thought to be more common in low lying areas of the field or places more prone to cooler temperatures.  

We need to consider the calendar now, and we think many are focused on the calendar now!  Growers want to get that corn planted before the 1st of May, so that they can maximize yield potiential.  As we move further North, the planting window slightly broadens and many have until around May 10th before losing out on too much yield potential.  But, as Dr. Nafziger reminds us in his recent U of I Bulletin article, this calendar rule on corn yield does not always hold true.  For example, in 2012, just because all the corn was planted by the end of April, did not guarantee high yields at the end of the season as we had a major drought.  But, Dr. Nafziger does say we need to plant as early as field conditions allow.

Dr. Emerson Nafziger’s, University of Illinois, recent article can be found at the following link:

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