Too Dry to Plant Corn??
April 11, 2012 by Andrew Westhoven, CCA
Too Dry to Plant Corn??
“What a difference a year can make!” This is my favorite phrase to use because everyone in agriculture knows that not one year is like any other. So far the spring of 2012 is no exception. The general scuttlebutt concerns the soil moisture and whether or not it’s too dry to plant. The dry March prompted earlier than “normal” tillage and anhydrous applications which may have dried out many soil types around the region. Because of this, some growers wonder if it’s too dry to plant.
A seed will usually imbibe water within 24-48 hours after planting. If a field remains undisturbed, planting immediately following a spring tillage pass might be an option to capture more moisture around the seed before the soil dries. Another very practical method is planting deeper. In a previous newsletter I tried to express my thoughts on planting depth. If you happen to miss that newsletter you may find it here: http://www.agrigold.com/agronomic-news/entry/planting-depth
Just for curiosity sake, a corn seed can germinate deeper than any planter setting. However, the general concerns with planting deeper than normal is seedling emergence and the fear of crusting over if a heavy rainfall event occurs. The aforementioned article showed that seeds planted from one, two, and three inches deep all emerged within 6 hours of one another. Additionally, it may be argued that a crusted soil will have a similar effect on all seed depths. A seed planted at one inch deep still has the same crust to break through as a two inch deep seed. Planting shallower does not guarantee faster emergence OR alleviate crusted soil effects. The key to uniform and consistent germination and emergence is to find the soil depth within the entire field (including clay knobs, sand hills, low bottoms, etc.) that has uniform moisture, temperature, and seed-to-soil contact.
To answer the real question, is it too dry to plant? Since our soil temperatures have been above 50ºF for a few to several weeks across northern Indiana, and as long as moisture can be found within the top 3 inches of soil, it is not too dry to plant. The caveat, the planter must be set deep enough to maximize what little soil moisture might be present. Additionally, it’s much better to plant into warm or cool dry soils than cool, wet soils.