Minnesota Farmer

Planting delayed

I had mentally placed today as the day I would start planting corn even if the ground temperature did not get up to 55 degrees, now due to rain, planting is delayed.

So far we have a bit over an inch of rain and there is forecast to be rain for the next week.  Since we are still in a moderate drought, this is welcome news.  Add to that the forecast for more cold weather and keeping seed in the bag is a good thing.

For many years I have listened to the conventional wisdom of seed companies that you have to get your corn planted by May 10.  Then I read an analysis by Ed Usset where he compared years of delayed planting with early planting.  Ed’s comparison found virtually no difference here in Minnesota.  The key for us was moisture.  In most of those years we were able to get in the field early, the weather was dry.  In most of those years we got planting finished late, it was because of a rain delay.  As we all know, rain makes grain.

Our area of Minnesota has been short of moisture since 2012.  That year found our subsoil moisture mostly used up by our crops.  Since then we have been living shower to shower.  We have been lucky to get just enough rain to give us a good crop.  Now that these rain showers are soaking down into our drainage tile there is hope for some recharge.

The continued cold in the forecast is much more troubling.  We are just out of a winter that saw some record ice levels on lakes and cold pushing down to freeze water lines.  A friend of mine reported that one of his water lines finally thawed out just last week and another’s just thawed out today.  The ground is still cold and we need some heat to get up to the germinating temperature of corn.

A few of my neighbors did take the chance and plant corn before this rain.  Mostly though farm planters stayed in the shed.  Although modern seed corn will germinate and thrive at a lower temperature than the corn of my grandfathers generation, there are still potential problems with planting too early.  When the soil temperatures warm up, the corn planted after the rain has just as good of a chance of producing a good crop as the corn planted before.  The summer heat will be the primary factor in what happens after planting.

So for now, I wait.  The weather will change and I will get the corn planted.  That has been the case for the 60 years I have been around and I do not see it changing.



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