Cold slows corn emergence, wet fields slow planting

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LITTLE ROCK – Wet fields have slowed planting statewide and cold weather is putting the brakes on corn emergence, county extension agents with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said.

The season’s first crop progress report, issued Monday, showed Arkansas growers had 22 percent of the state’s corn crop planted, compared with 56 percent during last year’s early warmup, and the 32 percent five-year average. Three percent of the crop has emerged. Most of what’s been planted is south of I-40.

In Lincoln County, some of the corn has been in the ground for two weeks and “nothing has emerged yet,” said Chad Norton, county staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Growers will be watching their rows closely for signs the cold seed is still viable.

“We dug some up this week and it’s still alive, I believe that it will eventually emerge but will have used up a great deal of energy in doing so,” he said. “Corn is pretty tough as far as being able to take a lot of seedling stress, however, there is a limit and any further stress, rain or cold temps, could cause some stand failures.”

Norton said that once the weather turns drier and warmer, producers will evaluate the crop.

“We still have time to get the crop planted in a timely window, no one is panicking yet,” he said.

How does a farmer decide on whether to replant or stay the course?

“It depends,” Stan Baker, Lee County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said on Tuesday. Farmers trying to decide “whether to replant a stand that is a little thin or live with it, is a question of timing. Many farmers cover large acres and they have to prepare and plant a lot of acres in a short period of time.”

As farmers get deeper into the planting season, the time pressure increases.

“What was so nice about last year is they were able to get so much done in March,” Baker said. “This year they are faced with trying to plant not only corn in April but also rice, grain sorghum, cotton, and even soybeans.”

For farmers, the decision-making path looks something like this:

  • Has the seed emerged? If not, is it still healthy underground?
  • Once all the healthy seeds germinate and emerge, are there enough to make an adequate stand?
  • How much is enough to make an adequate stand? 
  • Is the crop booked?
  • If replanting is needed, is there seed available?

“Every situation is different, and sometimes there is no clear answer,” Baker said. “That’s farming. Not boring, for sure.”

Winter wheat was 59 percent in good or excellent condition, with 32 percent fair and 9 percent poor or very poor.

No other crops were included in the report for the week ending March 31.

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