Time to Plant Corn?

It’s that time of the year when we’re thinking about planting some corn, but this year we’re going to see some delays.  Our biggest hurdle right now is the condition of the fields.  The majority are too soft for a planter to make it across without rutting up the soil or getting stuck.

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Lots of ruts.  This field was harvested while wet.

In fields that are firm enough for planters, let the soil temperature be your guide.  The soil should be at least 55 degrees in the top 2 inches for 3 consecutive days.  Also, look at the forecast to see if any weather systems are coming that would prevent the soil from staying above 55.  If you like to wait for the soil to warm up a little more, that’s fine, warmer is better.  Corn germinates and comes up a little slow at 55, but fairly quickly at 60.  Keep a soil thermometer in your truck to check your fields before you plant.

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This field is a little cool still.  Remember that fields with heavy crop residue on the soil warm up slower than a bare field.

If wet conditions persist and prevent planting through early to mid May, you may want to consider not planting corn in the fields that are yet to be planted.  It’s tough to make a profitable crop when planting late.  We tend to see to see more drought stress, higher temperatures during pollination (this hit us hard this past year), and higher levels of insect and disease pressure in late planted corn.  Overall, yields are lower and input costs are frequently higher (irrigation, insecticides, fungicides).

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Poor pollination from extreme heat.

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Southern rust can be tough to manage in late summer.

Hopefully we’re in store for a good growing season after the disaster we saw in 2015.  For more information on corn planting, check out Clemson Extension’s Corn Production page

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