If you’re reading this, it’s probably time to do the biggest job of the farming season – planting. The decisions that farmers make early in the season are some of the only ones truly in their control. A farmer can choose seed type, planting date, soil temperature and a host of other choices, while what happens later – windstorms, rainfall, etc. – are purely up to Mother Nature.
Today is the day to make the majority of the decisions that will be your contribution to yield for the rest of the season. So understanding what accounts for a successful early season is important.
Getting Planting Right
Planting is the first step in preparing for a good growing season. Once your seed is selected, having your field ready to plant is an excellent next step.
The soil you plant your seed into should have a healthy tilth. No-till soils often hold more moisture for the following crop, but soil residue can cause soils to stay cooler longer. Instead of making multiple tillage passes, which can lead to increased soil compaction and loss of moisture, farmers might consider strip till methods, which would prep the seedbed for planting, while allowing remaining residue to keep the bare soil covered and to hold on to soil moisture.
Weeds can be in competition with new plants for water, nutrients and sunlight. A burndown program that works for your operation is another factor that should be considered in getting your crop off to its best start.
Nutrients are key to healthy plants and higher yields. It’s been tough this year to make the numbers in the fertilizer budget work, so it’s important to have a plan that lets your crop take hold of every nutrient available to get off to its best start. Starter fertilizer is an excellent tool for starting seedlings for faster emergence and early growth, but a biostimulant such as Generate® could also help farmers who are looking to cut fertilizer without sacrificing yield. Biostimulants encourage microbial activity that helps release nutrients tied up in the soil – making it easier for plants to put their energy towards getting up and growing.
4 Primary Factors to Consider for a Successful Planting Season
1. Planting Date
Planting date varies by region but generally runs in the Mid-April to Mid-May range for much of the Midwest. We all know that the more time your corn has to grow and produce, the better, but it’s important to know where the limits are to those opportunities. Your state’s extension system or your seed company may have data to recommend an ideal date. Check with your crop insurance agent to see what their guidelines are as well. According to studies conducted by Iowa State University, hitting the right planting window for corn can impact yield by 4 to 10 bushels per acre.
2. Soil Temperature
The recognized minimum soil temperature for corn planting is 50 degrees, as that is the temperature the plant requires to germinate. Anything lower will cause the seed to sit dormant and lead to potential germination and emergence issues. Warmer soils will lead to faster emergence. Remember to check the temperature at planting depth, as that is where it matters.
3. Planting Depth
The ideal planting depth for corn is 1.5-2 inches. While it may be tempting to plant more shallow to encourage faster emergence, never plant shallower than 1.5 inches or deeper than 3 inches. And there are variations to consider in some cases. IT may be beneficial to plant closer to 1.5 inches in cooler soils, as that gives the soil chance to warm up more quickly, OR you may choose to plant slightly deeper if more moisture is available just below that 2-inch mark. The key is to do your research and to make the choice that best fits your farm.
4. Planting Rate
Your seed company will have recommendations as to the best planting rate for your particular hybrid. Your local universities or extension services may also have recommendations for planting in your region. The most important thing to remember is that more seed doesn’t always mean more yield. Overplanting can lead to a decreased return, as you pay for more seed than from which you were able to gain yield.
Understanding Germination and Emergence
Once a seed is in the ground, germination happens when a seed has taken up 30% of its weight in water. If you dig up the seed once germination begins, you’ll start to see the coleoptile and roots beginning to sprout.
The coleoptile holds the first leaves of the corn plant in a whorl. When it reaches the surface and pushes those first leaves through the soil surface, emergence has begun.
Corn emergence can take little as 4 days and up to four weeks. The slower emergence in cold conditions can lead to damage from disease and insects – another reason why planting at the right soil temperature is important.
Consistent and uniform emergence can have a significant impact on yield. One study from the University of Minnesota found that uneven emergence had a 5% to 9% negative effect on yield.
Other Factors That Impact Emergence
Cold conditions after planting can have a significant impact on seedling emergence. Seedlings take up a significant amount of water during their first 24-48 hours in the ground. If soil temperatures are too low, and the newly planted corn seed absorbs cold water, it can disrupt tissue growth. These seeds will appear swollen and often crack or rupture.
Wet or flooded conditions can have an impact too. Seedlings require oxygen to survive, and flooded fields deprive them of this. Pounding rain or flooding can also cause the soil to crust and become too hard for the seedlings to penetrate.
Measure Your Success: How to Take a Stand Count
A stand count is an easy way to see how your plants emerged and to identify any stressors while it’s still early. Here’s how to take a stand count in 3 easy steps.
1. Use a tape to mark off an area equal to one-thousandth of an acre. Use the chart below to determine the length to measure based on your row spacing. For example, if you have 30 inch rows, measure 17 feet 5 inches of a row to get the stand count population estimate.
2. Count the number of vigorous plants in the measured area.
3. Repeat this in various parts of the field, and average the number of plants counted in each area. Multiply by 1,000 to get the plant population per acre.
Agnition Knows How Much Emergence Matters for Your Success
At Agnition, our team knows that getting your crop off to its best start can make all the difference in your growing season. Our proven products - Generate® and Commence® - can help you lead more seeds to success. Farmers who use our products see improved emergence, increased early vigor, robust plant health and even higher yields.
Want to see how Generate can increase emergence on your farm? Try now with our No-Risk Trial Program!