Much of the early planted corn in Minnesota the last two years wasn’t much to look at when it first emerged. Spacing between plants wasn’t uniform and final stand counts were lower than expected.

But both 2002 and 2003 were excellent corn production years for Minnesota growers, says Dale Hicks, agronomist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. The state average yield was a record 157 bushels in 2002 and an impressive 146 bushels per acre in 2003. In both years, much of the state’s corn acreage was planted before May 1.

Uniform stands--both the spacing between plants and time of emergence--are important to give all plants equal competition for water and nutrients. However, non- uniform stands are productive and profitable because late-emerging plants do contribute to yield.

“There will be years again like the past two where stands won’t be as good as growers would like,” Hicks says. “But these early-planted stands have a higher yield potential than the later-planted stands that emerge more uniformly and appear to grow faster. Early planting sets the stage for high yields and the greatest profitability,” he says.

There are two planting windows in Minnesota, Hicks says. The first is between April 15 and May 5; then there’s a higher probability of rainfall that stops field work. The second window for planting begins about May 15.

“Times and durations of these planting windows vary every year, but the pattern is the same. For maximum profitability, don’t miss the first planting window,” Hicks says.