Ideal Planting Dates for 2018

Is there such a thing as an ideal planting date? When is it? Are questions that often get asked by corn and soybean growers. There are many different factors that affect the answer to those questions, so let’s explore a few of those in this discussion.

First, we know from many years of research that there is a primary window of time, usually about 30 days, where we can maximize yields at or above 95% of yield potential for that growing season. The challenge is that you can’t just pick a day or week of the year and say that is always the best time to plant corn. Research also tells us, that if we push outside that primary planting window of time by more than 10-15 days, it will have a significant impact on yield.

Tractor with trailed planter working in field in a sunny spring day

For much of the Mid-Atlantic region, our primary planting dates are between April 1 and May 10 for corn, and April 1 to May 25 for soybeans. Here in 2018, we are off to a cooler than normal and moist spring so far, and as we look at the calendar, we realize this may be a spring where we need to look at other factors to determine the best time to plant this year.

Soil temperatures are one of the primary indicators of when to start planting, if soil conditions are right. However, it is also important to observe the upcoming weather forecast! It is always best to plant into a warming weather pattern as opposed to planting just before a cool rain or just a few days before a week of cool, cloudy weather.

Planting into cool soils, or into a cooling weather pattern can affect the uniformity of emergence. The corn seed often takes it’s first drink of water 30-36 hours after planting, and if that first drink is cold, (below 50 degrees) it will result in imbibitional chilling, which can cause the cell tissue to rupture during expansion, causing the mesocotyl to be twisted or damaged. This injury may result in corkscrewing or leafing out below ground, reducing the chance of uniform emergence or stand establishment.

Sprouting seeds.

Even if the seedling injured by imbibitional injury does successfully emerge, the injury is likely to prevent proper nutrient uptake of the young seedling, restricting normal development and leaving the plant susceptible to insects or seedling diseases.

Soybeans require different planting conditions than corn. Soybeans take on water more quickly and normally emerge quicker than corn, however, the ideal soil temperature for soybeans is above 55 degrees. Once the soybean plant has germinated and emerged, the growing point is immediately exposed to the elements, whereas the corns growing point stays below ground until about V6 growth stage.

How early is to early to plant soybeans? Progressive growers today start planting soybeans about the same time as corn. The target for soybeans is to have the plant flowering during the longest days of the growing season, which is the end of June. Since soybeans are alight sensitive crop, flowering during the longest days of the year, allows for maximum pod set at each node on the plant.

We know there is a connection between planting soybeans into cold damp soils and the incident of Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), so when planting early season soybeans, choose genetics that will give you the best possible SDS Resistance. The SDS pathogen enters the young seedling but doesn’t express itself in the plant until the time flowering begins.

 The date you started planting may not be the most important factor in 2018!Getting the seedling off to a great start is very important to achieving high yields. Readily available nutrients close to the seed, sets the stage for uniform emergence and healthy vigorous plants.

Products like MegaPower MP which feed the soil microbes and fungi, while providing additional zinc and sulfur, help make nutrients readily available to the new seedling. Starter fertilizers like Xcelerate Corn provide readily available nutrients that you can place directly in the seed zone, delivering essential nutrients to meet the fertility needs of a rapidly growing young plant.

Set your crop up to maximize yield by giving it a vigorous healthy start this spring!