Patience is Key at this Point in the Planting Season

Mid-May is here but there’s no need for farmers to rush into their fields to finish planting. Farmers across the Midwest are still within the time period for great yields, so there’s no need to switch crops or maturities now.

Due to the shorter growing seasons in northern Minnesota, as well as in North and South Dakotas, farmers try to get their crops in the ground as early as possible. May 6-13 are considered optimal soybean planting dates for much of Northeast South Dakota, while early May dates are recommended for the southern areas of the state. Optimal planting dates in North Dakota range from late April to mid-May.

Planting corn through May 15 is considered ideal in Iowa, but it sounds like almost all of the corn acres are planted across the state. For those farmers who still have some corn in the shed, there’s no need to even think about switching hybrids yet. Research shows that hybrids adjust to planting dates, so full-season corn hybrids can compensate somewhat for later plantings.

As planting is delayed, hybrids shorten the time between planting and silking. Full-season hybrids almost always outperform short season hybrids, so Iowa State University Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Roger Elmore has said farmers really don’t need to consider switching maturities until May 25.

Many planters are parked across much of Latham Country as measurable precipitation fell over the weekend, and rain clouds continue to hover this week. Moisture was needed to get many crops off to a good start, as well as to activate herbicides, in the north. It’s just too bad some of this precip came in the form of snow! It looks like fields will remain wet across much of the Upper Midwest this week, but sunshine and warmer temperatures are on the horizon.

As hard as it is, be patient and wait for soils to dry before planting resumes. Planting into unfit conditions can cause lower yields than delaying planting by a few more days. Working soils that are too wet now could lead to soil compaction and have negative impacts on your crops during the growing season including: stunted plant growth; slow infiltration of water and/or ponding; high surface runoff and soil erosion under normal or light rainfall; poor root system establishment; and nutrient deficiency.

The best rule of thumb is to let the field dry before doing fieldwork. Use a quick field test to check the soil moisture: mold a length of soil between your index finger and thumb, or roll it into a ball in your hand. Observe whether the soil breaks apart as you work it.  If you toss the ball of soil into the air and it shatters or cracks upon falling to the ground, then conditions are likely suitable for tillage or planting.