COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio's corn crop is getting a late start this growing season compared to recent years with nearly 20 percent behind last year's planting schedule, according to the Ohio Agricultural Statistics Service.
Not surprising, the weather is being blamed for the lag. From a cold snap in early April followed by severe rain showers throughout parts of the state, growers have had difficulty getting their crop in the ground.
"We are caught in this pattern where we may have days suitable for planting when it's not raining, but because of the rains we've had, the soils are not yet dried out," said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist.
The longer a grower waits to plant, the more a ceiling is being put on yields. Optimum planting dates for Ohio are April 10-May 10 for southern counties and April 15-May 10 for northern counties.
"Generally we start seeing yields begin to fall about 1.5 bushels per acre per day of delayed planted after mid-May," said Thomison, who also holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "In some years, we'll see very good yields depending on rainfall during the growing season with corn planted right up to the end of May. But we encourage growers not to wait until the last minute because you never know what sort of weather we are going to get."
Thomison offers the following recommendations to help growers get their corn off to a good start:
• Focus on establishing the crop first. Delay preparatory operations like tillage and fertilizer and herbicide applications. "If you can minimize tillage and get your crop established, then do it. You can also sidedress your crop after its established," said Thomison. "The important thing is get that crop in the ground as soon as possible so you avoid yield losses as much as possible."
• Plant full season hybrids first. "Full-season hybrids generally show greater yield reduction when planting is delayed compared with short- to mid-season hybrids," said Thomison. "Once the full-season hybrids are planted, then alternately plant early-season and mid-season hybrids, to take full advantage of maturity ranges and to give the later-maturing hybrids the benefit of maximum heat-unit accumulation."
• Adjust seeding depth according to soil conditions. Seeds should be planted no deeper than 1.5 inches on wet soils and up to 2 inches on dry soils. Any deeper can cause emergence problems. Planting any shallower can result in poor root development and shoot uptake of soil-applied herbicides.
• Take advantage of herbicide-resistant corn hybrids if planting will extend into June. "Hybrids like Round-up Ready corn, Bt corn and Liberty Link can work well in late planting situations," said Thomison.
This is the first time in several years that Ohio growers have not enjoyed early corn planting.
"We've been spoiled being able to get the crop in the ground early," said Thomison, who remembers in 2005 when 80 percent of the corn was in the ground by April 18.
For the latest corn developments, refer to the Ohio State Agronomic Crops Team Web site at http://agcrops.osu.edu.
The Agronomic Crops Team is a group of Ohio State University Extension educators and Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center researchers who provide practical and timely information and educational opportunities that address the most pressing needs of Ohio's agronomic crop industry. Information is widely distributed through C.O.R.N., a free statewide electronic newsletter available on the team's Web site.