If you can, get in fields early


COLUMBUS – Getting ready to plant corn? Just remember the trials and tribulations of establishing last season’s crop.
Growers can reduce production risks if they adhere to the lessons learned from last season, said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State Extension agronomist.
Thomison hailed growers for early and prompt planting last season, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster crop year. Warm, dry conditions allowed growers to plant earlier than anticipated.
“About 70 percent of the corn was planted by May 9, which was ahead of schedule,” Thomison said.
Right depth. Given the unpredictability of weather, however, Thomison encourages growers to stick to recommended planting practices.
“We ran into several issues last year,” he said. “The main thing we saw was that as the ground turned dry, some growers were planting deeper than normal because they wanted to take advantage of any moisture. But that backfired on us when we ran into that cold, freezing rain and snow for a seven- to 10-day period after April 21.”
The rule of thumb when planting seed in mid-April is to plant between 1.5 inches and 2 inches deep. Planting any deeper could set growers up for emergence problems. Planting any shallower could result in poor nodal root establishment that could spell trouble for the crop later in the growing season, especially under drought conditions.
Crust busters. Another problem experienced last year was surface crusting of soil, created when heavy rains come into contact with excessively tilled soil. The result is a seed growth barrier and the subsequent corkscrew phenomenon characteristic of a plant struggling to emerge from the ground.
Don’t overwork fields, Thomison said, because it just predisposes soils to crusting if heavy rains occur.
“Last year we found that fields that weren’t tilled as extensively had a better chance of recovery than those fields that were tilled too much, especially in fields where soils were overworked to a powdery consistency.
“No-till fields also tend to perform better than conventional fields regarding this matter.”
Replanting is a guess. Juggling replanting with potentially late-emerging corn plants can be a challenge for growers, as the outcome of both is not so black and white.
Last year, more than 30 percent of the corn crop was replanted in many counties because of assumptions of damaged corn seed. However, some growers experienced late-emerging corn in their replanted fields.
“What we learned from this is that corn can emerge from the ground 40 days or even longer after it is planted,” Thomison said. “We found that in some cases late emerging plants performed better than replanted corn, and vice versa.”
To avoid early season planting problems, Thomison encourages growers to plant in well-drained fields first, and in fields prone to drainage or flooding problems last.
“Because those fields would probably flood in late April or early May, they are more likely to require replanting,” Thomison said.

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