COLUMBUS, Ohio - As corn growers ready for this year's growing season, establishing quality stands will no doubt be a key focus of their preparations.
Ohio State University agronomist Peter Thomison said that obtaining quality stands, that is, planting corn that is uniformly spaced apart and emerges evenly, is important to the successful growth of the crop and its overall yield potential.
"Stand establishment is a key planting issue that receives a lot of attention," said Thomison. "It goes back to the concept of 'picket row fences' - that evenly-spaced, uniformly developed plants tend to perform better than those that are irregularly planted." One way growers can achieve those quality stands is to pay attention to planting speeds and the depth at which seeds are planted from field to field.
"Planting speed should be no more than six miles per hour," recommends Thomison. "If a grower plants too fast, it may result in less effective seed singulation and less uniform seeding depth, which can effect establishment of the crown roots of the corn plant." Also, fluctuating seeding depth from field to field tends to bedevil farmers, said Thomison. "A farmer could start out in one field with seeds two inches deep and then by the time he's at the last field, the seeds might be at a different depth, even though the planter was never adjusted," he said. "They need to be checking their planting depth. Moisture and soil conditions are going to vary and if seeds are planted fairly high and shallow, roots that form close to the soil surface are subject to those fluctuations and will develop more slowly." Growers are recommended to plant one and a half inches to two inches deep below the soil surface.
"You don't want to have plants coming up two-three weeks apart from one another," said Thomison. "In fields where there are somewhere between 25,000-30,000 stands, younger plants are at a considerable disadvantage for light, nutrients and moisture. Since they are less competitive, the younger plant will usually be barren at the end of the season, which, of course, has an effect on yields." Ohio's mild, dry winter may be driving farmers to jump-start the planting season earlier than normal, but Thomison stresses that soil conditions need to be ideal if farmers are considering such a move. "I think there is some interest in planting ultra-early, say early April or even late March, rather than traditionally early, like late April or early May," said Thomison. "Our recommendations are such that if soils are dry and well-drained, then it's alright to go ahead and plant, but we emphasize the need for well-drained soils, and there are not too many areas in Ohio that provide that ideal condition at that time of year." Thomison added that farmers may also want to consider increasing seeding rates by 10-15 percent for earlier-than-normal plantings to compensate for seeds that fail to germinate due to cool temperatures and wet soil conditions.
Additionally, growers are recommended to plant full or late-season hybrids first, followed by mid-season to short-season hybrids. "If they encounter planting delays their greatest yield loss will be associated with full-season hybrids," said Thomison. "So if growers are running into cool, wet weather, plant full-season hybrids first, then follow-up with the mid to short-season hybrids." For additional pre-planting tips and information, refer to Ohioline at http://ohioline.osu.edu/agf-fact/0147.html.