Late Planting Start May Call for Adjusting Management Practices for Corn

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Thanks to cooler, wet weather in April that has caused spring planting delays across the region, growers may need to adjust some of their management practices when they are able to get into their fields to speed up crop establishment, said an agronomist with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Across Ohio, as of the week ending April 26, only 2 percent of corn was planted, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That compares to 3 percent that had been planted by the same time last year and 20 percent that had been planted on average during the same time period over the past five years, the agency said.

The concern for many growers is that delayed planting reduces the yield potential of corn, said Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. OSU Extension is the statewide outreach arm of the college.

Thomison said that while late planting could result in a reduction in corn yield, growers should resist getting into their fields before the soils are dry.

“Growers should avoid tillage and planting operations when soil is still wet,” he said. “Even if that leads to late planting and the potential for lower yields, getting into wet fields could lead to soil compaction which can instead reduce yields for several years.”

The optimal time to get corn planted in southern Ohio is between April 10 and May 10 and in northern Ohio between April 15 and May 10, based on historical crop data, Thomison said.

But, while growers who follow those planting dates generally see optimal yields, growers who don’t find optimal planting conditions may want to hold off, especially if the forecast calls for continued wet weather, he said.

However, once conditions are right for planting, many growers are likely able to get corn planted in a week, Thomison said.

“We’ve seen years where well over half of the corn statewide was planted in a week,” he said. “In 2005, many growers were forced to replant after a major freeze event hit the region and damaged a lot plants.

“But that year, we ended up with corn replanted by May 10. Growers can make remarkable progress in the right planting conditions. It’s all going to depend on how much rainfall we receive, and how quickly they can get into the fields.”

In addition to avoiding tillage and planting operations on wet soils, growers can learn other management tips to consider when dealing with a late planting season here. These tips were offered by Thomison and Extension state specialists Steve Culman and Mark Loux in a recent Corn Newsletter ( posting.

“Most of the adjustments aren’t going to be major changes for some operations as many growers are doing some of these management practices already,” Thomison said.

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Peter Thomison