While so many farmers in the Corn Belt are waiting for the soils to warm up, now is a great time to think about some corn planting logistics: tillage, row spacing, seeding depth and more. Roger Elmore, Iowa State University, offers the following tips for corn planting as we head into spring 2013. These are concerns, questions and topics that were addressed during winter sessions. Some of them you can control, such as hybrid choice, tillage and seeding rate. Others you just have to let happen, such as planting date and soil conditions.



As discussed in an earlier ICM News article, producers in more southern Corn Belt locations often plant very early maturities to avoid heat and drought normally experienced in August. If dry conditions persist at planting in your part of Iowa, stick with adapted, high-yielding hybrids that show some yield stability over locations and years. Planting much earlier hybrids will likely result in reduced yields.

Planting date

Optimum corn planting dates vary across Iowa, depending on soil moisture and temperature, from April 11 to May 13 in southern Iowa; April 15 to May 2 in central and northwest Iowa; and April 12 to May 2 in northeast Iowa. Although corn kernels absorb soil moisture when soil temperatures are less than 50° F, they will not begin germination until soil temperatures reach almost 50° F or higher.

If the sun is shining and the calendar date for your part of Iowa lies on the early side of the range listed above, and if soil temperatures are in the high 40s or higher and climbing, checkout the five-to-seven-day forecast. Plant corn if the forecast calls for more of the same. If, on the other hand, the forecast calls for a good chance of cold wet weather settling back in for a while, keep the seed in the bag.


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Soil conditions

Mahdi Al-Kaisi addressed soil conditions for planting in ICM News a few weeks ago. Field-capacity soils at planting depth are ideal for corn germination and early seedling growth. Beware of soils that are too wet. Side-wall compaction stymies early seedling growth both below and above ground and reduces yield potential. Deeper compaction from planting, spraying and harvesting equipment reduces yields for years. Ensure that soil conditions are optimum at planting.