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Crop Progress & Delayed Planting

Good Morning folks, and welcome to round…..? I ‘m not sure; I’ve lost count with all the moisture we’ve received this late “winter”/what’s supposed to be spring.

Here in the Northeast corner of Nebraska, we received over an inch of rain overnight Monday, with more expected the rest of the week. I’m not here today to concern you, or to deter the situation. Yes, planting is behind schedule, but there have been worse years before. I’m old enough to remember 1991 and 1992 in certain areas of the country.

It’s amazing how fast we can get a crop in once Mother Nature cooperates. We’re not that far off on planting and, with the cold soil temps we’ve had, that only further extends the problems. I’ve talked with a few NuTech Seed DSMs over the last 48 hours and soil temps are coming up. The next 7-to-10 day forecast calls for warmer weather and drying conditions later in the week.

If you’re concerned about maturities on corn: don’t be. Typically, this time of year we’re behind on heat units, and we catch up in late June and July. Stay with the corn hybrids your NuTech Seed representative has positioned for you.

The same goes for soybean varieties. Soybeans know how to adapt and are daylight sensitive. My experiences have shown that those growers who stay with their adapted varieties have the best results. In 1991 I saw soybeans being planted with airplanes on the 4th and 5th of July, using their adapted varieties. It got extremely hot, muggy and kept raining. We had a killing frost on the 18th of September, and the soybeans still yielded 40 bushels an acre.

With delayed planting, bring some other potential risks into our equations. The chance for more insect damage could occur from delayed planting or the wet conditions: seed corn maggots, wireworms, grubs, fall armyworm, and cutworms can become more of a problem. If you are equipped with insecticide applicators on your planters, consider using an insecticide in this year’s program. We can see improper seed-to-soil contact, as well as side wall compaction on your seed rows. Check your planters and adjust accordingly so that we don’t see open furrows and seed not at the proper depth, while having good “seed-to-soil” contact.

Here are some websites that can help you as the season progresses. UNL CropWatch is a tremendous website if you haven’t used it before. You can follow UNL.edu on Twitter or Facebook as well. UNL Water is another excellent resource. Tamra Jackson-Ziems has a great Twitter account and keeps up-to-date on the current planting situations and issues concerning crops in Nebraska. Jennifer Rees is a Nebraska Extension Educator focused on crop protection.

I’ve also had some dealers ask me recently about educational opportunities. We’ll have some going forward this summer at our company-sponsored plots as well as other events. One coming up is the “UNL Intro to Crop Scouting” on May 9 in Ithica at the UNL Diagnostic Center. 

Last but not least, please be safe, cautious, and think before you get rolling this season. I almost saw an accident occur on Friday because a farmer was getting in a hurry. Take your time and be aware of what’s going on around you!

What Do We Do Now?

With corn fields not yet planted throughout the region, these questions are being asked:

“Do I need to be switching to earlier maturing corn varieties?”
“Should I replant problem fields?”

It seems like each year I need to address these questions.  We learned in the past that corn requires fewer Growing Degree Units to mature when planted after May 1 than listed in product brochures.

From my own research trials and University trial data, we can expect corn planted in our region to require on average around 6.8 fewer GDU’s to mature for every day of delay beyond May 1.  Another way to interpret this is that it would require approximately 200 fewer GDU’s from May 1 planting versus June 1 planting to reach black layer.

For example, a variety listed at needing 2400 GDU’s to reach black layer would only need 2200 GDU’s to reach black layer when planted the end of May versus planted May 1.  What makes this research real is how growing degree days are calculated and how corn develops at temperatures over 55 degrees.

It is agreed corn does nothing for development at temperatures below 55 degrees and above 86 degrees.  However, when calculating GDU’s using the current formula, one minute at 56 degrees counts the same as 12 hours at 56 degrees for a given day. The corn plant “disagrees with that thinking” and in fact 12 hours at 56 degrees contributes to development much more than one minute at 56 degrees.  Typically, temperatures at the first of June are above 55 degrees more minutes a day than in April or the first of May, which validates the research above.

My advice to growers is to have patience with your variety selections until later in May. Planting earlier hybrids south of their adapted maturity zones could increase their inability to tolerate temperatures, as well as leaf or stalk diseases associated with southern zones.  

Planting date is but one of many yield influencing factors:

  • Historically, we know that early planting favors, but does not guarantee, higher yields.
  • Do not assume that this year’s ideal planting date has already passed.
  • 90% of corn yield and maturity date is typically determined by the environment (temperature and rainfall) after June 1.
  • Late May or June planted corn typically emerges twice as fast as April planting due to warmer soils and longer hours of sunlight.
  • Risk of replant is dramatically reduced for May plantings compared to April planting.

Replant decisions are also the hot topic for a lot of growers at the moment.  With warmer temperatures, we should be to able to evaluate stand establishment. Remember to base replant decisions based on expected yield and dollar returns, not on emotions. History tells us to finish planting other fields not yet planted prior to replanting.

Bob Nielsen, Agronomist Purdue University, writes replant guidelines to consider first:

  1. Productive plant population:  Determine the productive plant population in several areas of the field if left as is.
  2. Stand Uniformity:  If the productive plant population is not uniformly distributed within the row, additional loss will likely occur.
  3. Likely replanting date and target plant population.  This will help calculating the yield potential of the replanted field.
  4. Can the original yield goals be accomplished by spotting in thin areas or would it be better to replant the entire field?
  5. Likely replanting costs.
  6. Expected normal yields. Estimate the yield potential of the damaged field and replanting yield potential.  Suggest using a five-year average.
  7. Expected market price for corn.  The dollar gains or loss by replanting obviously depends greatly on what you expect to receive for the grain this fall.

Recognize that there is no guarantee of success for later-planted replanting situations.

Agriculture, Agronomy, Corn, Growing Degree Units, NuTech Seed, Planting, Replant, Soybeans, Spring

Spring has arrived!

After what seems like the longest winter ever, it looks like spring is finally here.  Our planting window is somewhat compressed, but 100% of yield potential can be expected for at least another three weeks on corn and five weeks for soybeans for most of the region.  Conditions and progress vary, as expected, across NuTech’s Central Region.  

Joe Kinscherff, our DSM from Pike County, IL, shared these photos with me last Saturday or corn and beans planted on April 5th.

In the northwest part of our region near Blooming Prairie, MN, NuTech dealer Brian Trius with Newry Ag, says they’re about 10 days out but the snow has melted and forecasted warm weather and rains will help get the frost out.

There’s been some talk of switching hybrids and I’m reluctant to even bring it up but I’d like to nip this talk in the bud as we are not even close to the “switch hybrid” date. Click here to read the article from University of Wisconsin.

Soil temperatures are rising quickly so it’s pretty much go time when soil conditions are fit. Table 1 in this article from Iowa State is a good guide for determining soil moisture:

Soil Moisture Remaining (Field Capacity) Moderately Coarse Texture Medium Texture Fine and Very Fine Texture
100% Upon squeezing, no free water appears on soil, but outline of ball is left on hand. Forms a ball, very pliable, slicks readily. Easily ribbons out between thumb and forefinger.
100-75% Forms a weak ball, breaks easily when bounced on hand. 
75-50% Will form a ball, but falls apart when bounced in hand. Forms a ball, slicks under pressure. Forms a ball, will ribbon out between thumb and forefinger.
50-25% Appears dry, will not form ball with pressure.  Crumbles, holds together with pressure. Somewhat pliable, will ball under pressure.
25-0% Dry, loose, flows through fingers. Powdery, crumbles easily. Hard, difficult to break into powder. 

A few other things to watch:

  • Iowa State reported seedcorn maggot in corn in southern Iowa earlier this week
  • Black cutworm flights have started (I caught my first moth this morning in an Iowa State sticky trap)

Iowa State is working with cooperators across the state to run pheromone traps for true armyworm and black cutworm moths.  These moths fly up from the south each spring and by monitoring the flights we can estimate when the larvae will emerge and begin feeding.  Iowa State will release predicted cutting dates in early May.

Agronomy, Corn, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State University, Minnesota, Planting, Soybeans, Spring, University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin

Patience & Preparation

My topic of early planted soybeans last week almost seems laughable as we look at yet another week of well below average air and soil temperatures. April 3rd's 4-inch soil temperatures in Southeast and Northeast Iowa were 38° and 32° F, respectively. That’s a little over 11° cooler than the 20-year averages of 43.25° F for NE Iowa and 49.2° F for SE Iowa.

Click here to view Iowa soil temperature maps.

Be patient, according to a tweet from Dennis Todey, Director USDA Midwest Climate Hub and Ag Climatologist, Wednesday morning; weather models show warmer air moving into the upper Midwest toward mid-April, but not consistently warm. Dennis can be found on twitter at @dennistodey.

Obviously, this cooler weather will delay field activities and planting this spring. While that isn’t a good thing, it does give us additional time to fine tune planting, tillage and spray equipment. Avoiding breakdowns and repairs during this condensed planting window could be crucial.

Pinpoint Planting with These 4 Steps

Planter Maintenance Tips

One thing we certainly don’t want to do is plant into unfit soils. Please don’t jump the gun on this as soil conditions at planting are extremely important to maximize yields. According to Iowa State University Extension’s Corn Planting Guide, 100% of relative corn yield can be expected from April 20th thru May 5th, while 99% of yield can be expected until May 19th.

To put the planting work load in perspective, we can divide the total acres to plant by the average acres planted per day. Then figure about half the days will be fit to plant. Let’s say a farmer can plant 100 acres/day and has 1000 acres to plant; that’s 10 days of planting. If he starts on April 20th and will only be able to plant every other day, he will be done on May 10th, still within nearly 100% of relative yield.

The late start also gives us the opportunity to finalize or adjust any last-minute seed, fertilizer and/or herbicide plans. Shameless plug: We still have plenty of high yielding NuTech Seed available.

Things can get crazy when under pressure to get the crop in the ground and we can let emotion lead us to make bad decisions or, worse yet, jeopardize safety. Let’s make sure we have everything in place, a backup plan or two, and work efficiently, deliberately and most important safely.

Uneven Corn Emergence Penalties

To understand if or how much uneven emergence of seedling corn effects overall yield of late emerging plants, a number of Universities and on-farm research have studied the effect.

A Crop Science Abstract study of Response of Corn Grain Yield to variability of even emergence and variability in plant spacing found:

  • Compared with the uniformly early emerged plants, one out of six plants with a two- leaf stage delay in emergence reduced yield by 4%.
  • One out of six plants with a four-leaf stage delay reduced yield by 8%.

“These results indicate that corn is more responsive to emergence variability than plant spacing variability.”

“Variation in plant emergence reduced yield, whereas variation in with-row spacing did not affect yield.”

Lori Abendroth, Iowa State University agronomist, wrote “when smaller corn plants compete with larger ones, they are at a significant disadvantage in the fight for sunlight, moisture and nutrients. Meanwhile, as the smaller plants battle for whatever resources they can grab, they drag down yields of the older plants. The result is the whole field suffers.”

“If one-fourth of the crop emerges just a week late, yields can drop about 6%. A two-week delay for half the plants sets up the crop for a 17% loss.”

Bob Nielsen, Purdue University: Uneven emergence is a problem that will haunt you the whole season.

University researchers from Wisconsin and Illinois have documented as much as a 15% decrease in yield when 25% of corn plants were delayed a week and a half.

Cousins Jason and Adam Watson of Villa Grove, Illinois reported on their own farm replicated research in Corn + Soybean Digest.

In 2013 and 2014 Jason flagged newly emerged seedings each day at noon, according to day of emergence. After hand harvesting the 40 foot row experiment they arranged the ears on the shop floor accordingly.

In 2013 the day one emergence (a population of 21,000 P/A) ears averaged 18 rows around 34-37 kernels long. This averaged 639 kernels per ear.

  • All day 2 emerged plants (a population of 9,000 P/A) ears had 16 rows around and were 34-37 kernels long. This averaged 568 kernel ears.
  • All day 3 emerged plants and later (a population of 5,000 P/A) lacked any ears at all or were “weeds”.

In 2014 weather conditions were much cooler after planting and the plants took 10 days longer to emerge.

  • Day one emerged plants resulted in a population of only 5,000 plants per acre.
  • Day 1 emerged plants the ears averaged 16.33 rows around 40.5 kernels long or 660 kernels per ear average.
  • Day 2 emerged plants (a population of 21,000 P/A) averaged 18 rows around and 38.66 kernels long or 696 kernels per ear average.
  • Day 3 emerged plants (a population of 7,500 P/A) averaged 11 rows around and 25.5 kernels long or 280.5 kernels per ear average.

The Watson cousins on farm research is something NuTech DSM’s, Dealers and customers could do on their own to evaluate how well their planters are setup for optimum emergence. Seed costs per acre are the same. But yields are an area for increasing or loosing dollars per acre!

The Progressive Farmer published an article in the April 2018 edition that also discusses this topic. Good read.

Suggestions to avoid uneven emergence:
Corn sometimes emerges unevenly because of environmental factors that growers can not control. Nevertheless, do what you can to manage what you can control.

  • Wait until the field is ready 
  • Monitor both soil moisture, soil temperature and short term weather forecast. Soil temperature should be at least 50 degrees in the coolest soil types of the field.
  • Avoid excessive tillage trips which dry or compact the seedbed.
  • Tilling when soils are too wet can produce cloddy soils, a major cause for uneven stands.
  • Monitor seed placement during planting to be sure there is uniform and good seed to soil contact. If not add seed firmers such as Keeton brand. Uniform seed depth is critical. Adjust seed openers, closing wheels and/or press wheel tension.
  • Manage residue. If row cleaners are used to wipe away residue don’t be too aggressive but enough that allows for a good clean seed bed.
  • Don’t plant any shallower than 1.5 inches. 2” to 2.5” is generally ideal.
  • Agronomists agree that excessive planter speed is the biggest deterrent of uniform seedling depth and emergence.
  • Checking seed to soil contact across different soil types in each field can increase your net income. After planting is too late for this year.