How early is too early?

Recent conversation on Farmers for the Future centered around a very good question: just how early is too early to plant corn?

Since the 1970s, the time for planting corn in the spring has moved up 10 to 14 days. The ability to plant earlier is mainly attributed to advances in plant breeding and seed treatments, and perhaps, changes in climate.

A recent article in “Top Crop Manager” states that planting dates vary from April 15-24 across the Corn Belt, depending on soil conditions. Although breeding and seed treatments have allowed for earlier planting, it’s still a good idea to watch the weather. Seed is most vulnerable during its first few days in the soil, so you certainly don’t want to put it in unfavorable conditions early on.

One tip included in this article involves grabbing a clump of soil and watching how easily it crumbles. If the soil stays in a ball, conditions are not right for planting. If it crumbles easily, the soil is fit for planting.

It’s also very important to look at farm insurance policies as they relate to planting dates. Make sure you have looked at the specifications for the “do not plant before” dates — if you plant outside those dates, your insurance coverage could be jeopardized.

In the end, when you plant is truly is a judgment call based on weather and soil conditions. You know your fields better than anyone. And as the article states, it’s very rare that judgment leads a farmer too far beyond the limits.

To read more of the “Top Crop Manager” article, click here. For a helpful table provided by the University of Nebraska Extension on planting dates, click here.