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April 25, 2017 | By: | Agronomy

Cool Your Jets – Don’t Change Corn Maturities Yet



Just like you, we here at Peterson Farms Seed are wondering when we will get to start planting corn. We are itching to get started with our “Plan A” planting plan. But, with the calendar moving forward and the weather not shifting in our favor, the urge to switch corn maturities may be more tempting with each passing day.

I can’t emphasize enough to focus on warm soil temperature and seedbed conditions for good corn emergence rather than relying solely on the calendar. If the forecast is wet and cold, wait for a better forecast rather than pushing it just because you feel the pressure of the calendar. Your “Plan A” hybrids are meant to maximize bushels and profits. Your “Plan B” earlier maturity hybrids will not have nearly as much potential.

Soil Temperature

When waiting to plant corn, pay more attention to soil temperature than the days passing on the calendar.

Oftentimes, while talking to growers, I hear a loss of perspective between the calendar and reality. Panic sets in if they can’t get the corn in before April ends. Remember, acres that are planned for the appropriate maximum corn maturities can be planted into the first part of May. On average, only enough heat units occur between April 15 and May 5 to emerge the corn. If that same corn is planted between May 1 and 5, it will often catch up to earlier planted corn due to warmer soil temperatures. Plus, on average, the emergence is even higher.

Much of the time, when we plant in cold soil, the seed sits and loses vigor, which damages the final stand count. Think of those corn kernels like your kids. If your little Jake or Stacey were shivering sitting in a cold classroom, how much are they going to learn compared to being warm and comfortable? Resist planting into bad conditions or trying to beat a weather system.

Imbibitional chilling injury corn

What happens underground (left) and above ground (right) when corn seed imbibes cold water, otherwise known as corkscrewing, 24-36 hours after being planted.

If you have a dryer and your neighbor does not, the two of you might have different approaches to maturity. With a dryer, you may justify “pushing” corn maturities to gain potential extra bushels. It also means you will not change your “Plan A” as quickly as your neighbor. But neither of you should change anything in your original plan prior to the first week in May.

As an example, let’s say you plant 90-93 day corn on your farm, year-in, and year-out, as you’ve found that range to be your maturity sweet spot. You have a dryer so you like to plant ten percent 95-97 day corn and even one quarter of a 100-day if conditions allow you to plant early. Using my above advice, you should not consider switching that quarter of 100-day until May 1 through 5 and even further down the calendar for the earlier hybrids.

Feeling better because you plant 100-day corn at the “right” time on the calendar may be a bad feeling to chase. It is better to have good, evenly emerged 100-day corn that you waited a few extra days to plant than an uneven or reduced stand of 100-day corn that you forced into the ground before April ended. Planting conditions and soil temperature are much more important than a calendar date.

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