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Agronomy Update

Early Planting in 2017

Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Over the past few weeks, many farmers have called me jokily asking, “is it too early to plant?”

My answers always seem to be long, with a lot of details and factors, as I try to help them determine if it is or isn’t too early. With that said, let’s look at our ideal planting dates and things you need to consider before planting.

Through our Practical Farm Research (PFR)® studies, we have shown that is it not too early to be planting both corn and soybeans. Based on our PFR Proven™ data below, you can see that we are now within our ideal planting date window for both crops.

Obviously planting early can lead to better yields, but why is that? And what really is the goal of planting after all? Even though the calendar says it’s time plant, are there other factors we need to consider? The first and most important thing we need is to achieve a uniform stand. We know that the best yields come from evenly spaced plants that all emerge together. To achieve that uniform stand, we need to make sure our planter is in top notch condition so it places our seed at the proper depth with good seed-to-soil contact. 

Another thing we need to look at is soil temperatures and moisture. Moisture and oxygen are two huge factors that can contribute to uniform emergence. A corn plant must absorb about 30 percent of its weight in water to germinate, whereas soybeans need to absorb 50 percent. Corn and soybeans will both begin to germinate when soil temperatures reach 50 to 55°F. This measurement should be taken at a 2 in. depth in a field under normal planting conditions. Soil temperatures are usually at their lowest about an hour after sunrise, so ideally your soil temperatures at 2 in. should be at least 50°F for three to four consecutive days with the expectation that they will remain above that temperature. Plants usually require 100 to 150 growing degree days to emerge, so air temperature after planting also has an effect on how quickly plants emerge. If you are no-tilling, you can benefit from early planting by setting your row cleaners to allow sunlight to reach and warm the soil. Seed treatments are also critical for early planting, which is why Beck’s offers Escalate™ yield enhancement system on all corn and soybean seed at no additional charge.

The other thing farmers in our area need to consider is frost or the inevitable last spring freeze. The risk for southern Indiana’s last spring freeze is usually highest from April 11 to April 30, as shown below. 

The other concern I have with early planting, and the one I receive the most complaint calls about, revolves around planting into wet soils resulting in compaction from either a tillage tool or the planter.  One of the most important things I can stress is to avoid conditions that would cause soil compaction. Each year, soil compaction reduces corn yields much more than expected and, in most cases, it can be easily avoided by waiting an extra day or two before planting.

Be sure to look at the PFR Proven products for planting time in your 2016 PFR Book and PFR Poster for new ways to increase yields and profitability on your farm this year. If you have questions, please contact your local seed advisor or dealer. 

Safe Planting!








Practical Farm Research (PFR)® PFR Proven™ and Escalate™ are trademarks of Beck's Superior Hybrids, Inc.


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Steve Gauck

Steve Gauck

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