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Agronomy Update

April Planting Updates

Published on Wednesday, April 12, 2017

With planting just days away, now is a great time to look over your final planting details to ensure you are setting yourself up for maximum yield potential with the upcoming crop. Becks Practical Farm Research (PFR)® continues to provide us with unbiased guidelines and insights to help maximize yield and return on investment (ROI) on every acre.

Planting Depth:

One of the easiest adjustments to make, and one that will pay big dividends when done correctly, is setting your planter to the proper planting depth. In 2016, Beck’s PFR corn planting depth study once again confirmed what most of us already knew, that planting corn between 2 and 2.5 in. consistently returns the highest yield, and the most uniform seedling emergence and plant stand.

The most important takeaway from this study is not pinpointing the exact depth to plant corn, but to realize the yield loss potential from planting corn too shallow. Creating the most consistent environment for the entire population is the key to achieving a uniform stand. Planting at 1.5 in. will leave your seeds in an environment that is susceptible to vast swings in both temperature and moisture levels within the soil. Remember, corn seeds must imbibe (take up) about 30 percent of their weight in water to initiate the germination process. Shallow planted seeds that experience rapid seed zone drying may slow or completely stop the germination process, ultimately leading to uneven plant emergence. Shallow planted corn can also experience problems with nodal root development which will lead to standability issues, reduction of drought and heat related stress tolerances, and an inability to feed a growing plant later in the season. Make sure to take the time in every field (or as conditions change within a field) to dig behind the planter and check your planting depth and spacing.

Planting Date:

One of the most common questions I hear every spring is “should I plant today or wait?’’ The question generally comes under the context of an early date on the calendar, a spell of cooler temperatures, or the threat of spring storm moving in. What we have learned from our PFR data is that early planting of both corn and soybeans, when conditions are fit, provides us with the largest ROI.

Although this data shows that planting early will provide the best opportunity for high yields, we must be cognizant of soil conditions and forecasted weather patterns. One of the largest risks we face in northern Illinois is cool soil temperatures and the chance of cold rains during planting. These conditions could lead to what is known as imbibitional chilling injury. Once the seed is planted in the soil, it will begin to imbibe water, regardless of what the soil temperature is. This initial imbibition takes place during the first 24 to 36 hours that the seed is in the soil and will provide ample water to the seed to begin the germination process.

If the first water taken up by the seed is cold (less than 50°F), chilling injury can occur. When this happens, the cell membranes become rigid and do not exhibit their elastic characteristics, which can cause them to rupture. Ruptured cell membranes can lead to aborted radicles, delayed seedling growth, and provide an entry point for disease infection.

When planting corn early, I recommend the following:

  • Aim to plant when soil temperatures are at or above 50°F.
  • Maintain a planting depth of 2 to 2.5 in. to obtain good seed-to-soil contact and achieve more uniform soil conditions across the entire planted population.
  • Monitor the weather forecast to allow your planted seeds 24 to 36 hours in the ground before a cold rain.
  • No-till or minimum-till soils will remain cooler and wetter later into the spring. Manage these fields accordingly.

Remember, plant stand uniformity is critical to achieving high-yielding corn and soybeans. With many factors out of our control, aiming to perfect the things we can control should be top priority in your management.


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Jon Skinner

Jon Skinner

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