Planting corn into wet soils. If you have to …
Well, here we go again, right! We are facing another year with the possibility of planting into wet and cold soils. Corn yields in fields that are planted before soil conditions are dry enough can be 40-50 bushels less than fields worked a few days later when soils are more fit.
Don’t rush, we have the whole month of May to get this crop planted before we turn our backs and plant another crop with less profit potential. Here are some tips to help limit yield reductions when we are planting in these conditions.
- On heavy soils, working the soil when it is too wet is very detrimental. Avoid this if at all possible. If soil “ribbons” it is too wet to work or plant into.
- Wait until the soil temperature is 50 degrees at the 2” depth, if possible. The faster the seed can emerge the better, lowering seedling disease and the chances of imbibing cold water.
- Don’t plant in front of a 3-4 day cold weather forecast.
- Increase your population by 5% to compensate for stand loss. Consider increasing by up to 10% in very bad conditions where the seed bed was worked wet, cloddy and higher amounts of residue present.
- Lower the down pressure on your planter units to a minimum and still get the seed at the proper depth of 1 ½-2 inches. This lessens the compaction caused by closing wheels.
- Do not plant less than 1 ½ inches deep with the thought of speeding emergence. Rootless Corn Syndrome may occur causing lowered yields and tipped corn later in the season.
- Consider using one or two spiked closing wheels on heavy soil to reduce sidewall compaction from the disc openers. Sidewall compaction (sidewall smear) reduces root development and yield potential.
- Use residue managers (trash whippers) to clear residue as best you can. Set them so they skim the surface and don’t push soil. This is a standard practice and should be considered all the time in high residue fields. This also creates a blacker and warmer soil surface.
Growers have one shot a year to get planting done right the first time. Patience will pay dividends in these situations.