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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Corn Planting Behind Schedule

April 25, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Recent wet weather conditions are working against Ohio growers in getting their corn crop in the ground.

Ohio State University Extension agronomist Peter Thomison said planting is behind schedule compared to this time last year. "This year we only have about 2 to 3 percent of the corn planted. The last two years we had good seedbed conditions this time of the year and, consequently, had 10-15 percent of the corn planted by this date," he said.

He added, however, that time is still on growers' sides, but they shouldn't wait too long to get their corn planted.

"We recommend that they get corn established as soon as possible. As long as things dry up with the next two weeks, we should be OK," said Thomison. "It's not until about mid-May we start seeing a decrease in yield potential associated with delayed planting. By then you are looking at about a bushel to a bushel and a half in yield decrease for each day of delayed planting." In times of wet weather conditions, growers are encouraged to plant full-season hybrids first, followed by mid-to-short-season hybrids. Thomison said full-season hybrids tend to lose yield potential faster than other hybrids when planted late in the season.

"Full-season hybrids planted late will have wetter grain at harvest which will create potential problems," he said. "They also can't take advantage of as much of the growing season as they would normally. It's an abbreviated growing season for them and they don't have as much time to utilize those outputs like sunlight and nutrients." Although growers are recommended to plant as soon as possible, they should also be sure that soil conditions are ideal for planting. "Growers need to watch their fields carefully and postpone getting in the field too early if soil conditions are not ready yet," said Thomison. "A downside to such a situation is 'mudding in' the corn or working it in when the fields are just marginal at best for planting." Such a practice may result in poor soil-to-seed contact, which leads to uneven emergence of corn plants. Plants that do not develop uniformly compete with each other for sunlight and nutrients, and late-maturing plants tend to produce either a smaller ear or no ear at all. In addition, "mudding in" corn often times results in compaction which translates into more moisture stress later on in the growing season. "It interferes with good root development and water and nutrient uptake," said Thomison.

Another situation that growers may be concerned with is losing nitrogen before the crop gets planted. "Some of the nitrogen that has been applied to fields may have been lost during these warm, wet conditions the last few weeks," said Thomison. "Such weather conditions are favorable for denitrification. This may cause a nitrogen deficiency problem which could put a ceiling on yield potential unless nitrogen is supplemented later on." Thomison said in worse-case scenarios, growers should plant their corn first, then apply herbicides and fertilizers to get the maximum benefits. "Farmers are not going to be able to utilize all that nitrogen if they fertilize now and then plant late."

Candace Pollock
Peter Thomison