Indiana corn: Tough planting decisions ahead
For Indiana farmers with a lot of acreage to plant, two Purdue Extension agronomists say it’s probably time to start planting corn while keeping in mind best agronomic practices.
Until recent days, cold temperatures and wet soils kept growers from field operations, including tillage, fertilizer applications and planting. A few warm days at the end of last week had farmers out in full force, but with a cold extended forecast, many will have to decide whether to go ahead and plant corn or wait for warmer temperatures.
According to Bob Nielsen, it depends in large part on the amount of acreage a farmer has to plant.
“If you farm small enough to where you have less than a week’s worth of planting, I’d wait another week and let the soils warm up,” he said. “But clearly, if I had thousands of acres to plant, I’d go ahead this week if soils are fit. Some of these soils are drier than what we would expect, but it’s a field-by-field situation.”
The forecast for the next 10 days calls for below-normal temperatures with highs in the 50s and lows in the high-30s to low-40s.
“These temperatures are what we would have expected a couple of weeks ago, and that’s the time when farmers would have started planting in other years,” Nielsen said. “I think planting now is a moderate risk – nothing more than normal. If I had a lot of acres, I’d risk it.”
Part of the risk in planting when it’s cold is that corn might not emerge quickly enough, leaving it vulnerable to pests. The minimum temperature for corn development is 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the April 21 Indiana Crop Progress and Condition Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 1 percent of Indiana corn had been planted as of April 20, compared with a five-year average of 14 percent planted by the same date. Farmers in the state had only 3.7 days suitable for fieldwork in the two weeks prior to the report.
The optimum window for planting corn in Indiana is typically April 20 to May 10, with that window opening a week earlier in the far southern part of the state and a week later in the far north.
But while Nielsen urged farmers with a lot of acreage to go ahead and start planting, he and Purdue Extension agronomist Tony Vyn were quick to point out that farmers need to remember best agronomic practices – especially when it comes to planting quickly on the heels of anhydrous ammonia applications.
“Because weather delayed field operations there’s now a small window between pre-plant anhydrous ammonia application and planting,” Vyn said. “A rush to plant corn soon after this typical pre-plant nitrogen application has an element of risk associated with it.”
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