Beware Of Planting Into Cold Soil

Cold temperatures
( MGN Image )

While many across the country are itching to get into fields, planting too early could lead to cold or even frost injury to seedlings, resulting in lowered stands and therefore reduced yield potential. Make sure you’re aware of what soil temperature is in your area and what near-term forecasts indicate temperatures will become.

Test your soil. Use a soil temperature probe to make sure soil is at or above 50° F prior to planting. You’ll also want to make sure temperatures are on the rise for several days immediately following planting.

With a soil probe, get 4” below residue and into the soil to get a real measurement of what the seed environment could be. Areas with heavy residue or where you’ve used no-till are likely going to be colder and stay cold longer. Soil needs to stay above that 50° mark the first 48 hours after planting to ensure good germination.

University of Nebraska (UNL) gives these tips for checking soil before planting:

  • Check the average soil temperatures for the last seven days
  • Check the predicted air temperature for the next 48 hours after planting (note, soil temperature changes slower than air temperature)
  • Test the soil manually in the field you want to plant—use a thermometer with a probe and check temperature just after dawn, since that is when it will be the coldest

If soil tests are below 50° the day you want to plant or are expected to drop for much of the 48 hour period following planting consider delaying plating, UNL advises.

Soil temperature map