Spring 2013 has been a chilly, damp contrast to 2012, when
most corn was planted by May 1. The rain is welcome — the U.S. Department of
Agriculture no longer considers Illinois abnormally dry, essentially signaling
the drought’s end — but has spoiled plans of duplicating last year’s planting
However, there’s still plenty of time to reach your 2013
yield goals if you’ve delayed planting until mid-May or later. Keep these points
* Remain patient and make sure soils are in working
condition — Tilling mostly wet fields can compact soil, leading to poor
seed-to-soil contact, reduced stands, rootless corn syndrome and late-season
stalk rots — all of which will reduce yields more than a slight planting
* Consider crop insurance dates — Last year, we warned of
planting too early. This year, keep the USDA crop insurance final corn planting
date in mind if you’re not insured for late planting.
That’s May 31 for our seven southernmost Illinois counties —
Union, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac — and June 5 for the
rest of the state;
* Consider the calendar — Corn planted after May 1 requires
fewer growing degree-days to reach black layer. This equates to a 6.8 GDD
reduction for each day planting is delayed through May, meaning there is little
need for growers to consider changing their hybrid selection because corn plants
can help make up for the later planting dates.
For most full-season hybrids, planting can be delayed until
June 1. After that date, risk increases of plants not maturing before
* Work with your agronomist to reprioritize your schedule —
Plant later-maturing hybrids first, followed by middle maturities and
shorter-season maturities. This will minimize the risk of a killing fall frost.
Discuss possible hybrid seed exchanges with your rep or dealer if corn isn’t
planted by late May;
* Adjust planting population — Assuming a desired stand
population of 30,000 plants per acre, adjust populations down by 2,000 to 3,000
seeds per acre for fuller season hybrids as favorable growing conditions will
Plant as close to your final desired population as possible.
This will strengthen stalks and roots, bracing plants for summer storms.
Bump populations up by about 2,000 to 3,000 seeds per acre
for shorter-season hybrids to maximize yield potential;
* Do not plant shallower than planned — Plant for uniform
emergence. In heavier, clay-based soils, plant at least 1 ½ inches deep. In
sand-based soils, plant at least 2 inches deep.
Delaying emergence by one to two days is worth the tradeoff,
given the added root support and added nutrient uptake from brace roots. Also
maintain proper planting speeds; and
* Consider starter fertilizer — Supplementing nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium with starter fertilizer helps your crop avoid stress,
even when cooler temperatures significantly reduce soil microbial activity.
Purdue University recommends applying 20 to 40 pounds of
starter fertilizer per acre — N, P2O5 and/or K2O — placing 2 inches to the side
and 2 inches below the seed.
Coupled with near-normal conditions, starter fertilizer will
help fuller-season hybrids grow quickly and catch up to shorter-season
They say good things come to those who wait. We believe that
will be especially true this year for corn growers.