Some tips on soil temperature


WEST MIDDLESEX, Pa. – When planting season rolls around, one of the most valuable tools a farmer needs fits right in his shirt pocket.
Useful. Soil thermometers aren’t the most glamorous piece of equipment on the farm, but they can provide critical information when it’s time to get in the fields.
As long as soil conditions are good, farmers should use soil temperature and the calendar date as a guide to when planting can begin.
According to Joel Hunter, an ag and agronomy educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension in Crawford County, early-season planting should be dictated by soil temperature. But during the normal planting season, soil temperature is less important.
At the 10th annual Tri-State Conservation Tillage Conference Jan. 23, Hunter presented farmers with some guidelines for early planting.
What to do. First, measure the soil temperature at the depth you will plant corn, usually 1.5-2 inches, during the early morning. If the temperature is above 50 degrees, it’s OK to plant. However, be sure to think ahead and see if weather predictions indicate the temperature will stay constant for three to five days.
Also, Hunter recommends measuring the temperature of the type of soil that will be planted. If possible, measure in the same type of tillage, crop residue or cover crop as well.
Finally, farmers who plant early in cold, wet soil might consider increasing their seed rates by 2,000 kernels per acre, Hunter said. This is due to the unpredictable results of such planting conditions.
Site specific. Planting recommendations are always site specific and should be adjusted according to your local weather.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at


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