Don't Be Too Tempted to Plant Now

There are 1,000 variables each growing season that will determine how much grain gets produced.  Seed selection, planting conditions, tillage choice, nutrient management, as well as the amount and timing of precipitation top the list.

While the weather is out of your control, there are many things you can control in order to position yourself for a successful growing season.  The following four variables could have more impact on your crop’s performance than anything else this year:

Planting Date Iowa State University research shows very little yield difference between crop planted April 20 and May 20.  For example, corn planted between April 20 and May 5 resulted in 100 percent yield potential.  However, 99 percent yield potential could still be achieved with a planting date up to May 20.

Soil Temperature Soil temperatures yesterday, according to Iowa State University’s four-inch soil temperature maps ranged from 40 degrees in the northwest and southeast corners of Iowa to 45 degrees in the south central part of the state.  We recommend waiting until soil temperatures in a region reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant corn and between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant soybeans.

Soil Compaction The ability to compact a soil increases as the soil water content increases, so soils that are at or near field capacity this spring are more susceptible to compaction.  Delay fieldwork when soils are wet to avoid unnecessary compaction.

Planting Speed As farmers continue to increase their acres, the tendency is to use bigger equipment and to go faster.  This University of Wisconsin study shows that planting at higher speeds will decrease the accuracy of seed placement and thereby decrease yields.  I recommend planting between 4½ – 5½ miles per hour to optimize seed placement which should allow for better stands and higher yields.

The great news is that farmers are in the driver’s seat!  Avoid planting in subpar conditions, when soils are too wet or too cold to provide optimal growing conditions for seed.  Although new seed technologies can work wonders, there isn’t a one that can work a miracle!  Patience now will pay off with bigger yields this fall.