By: Dillon Blythe, Agronomist
As temperatures start to rise and planting equipment gets tuned up, you can practically sense the anticipation (or impatience) to get the crops in the ground. Sometimes the decision to drop your planter in the first field becomes based more on emotion (when “everyone” else is already out) instead of fully evaluating the conditions.
Like clockwork, as the insurance planting date nears, we field a lot of calls asking if it’s fit to go. Whether it’s eagerness to get started or the anxiety of getting behind, years of our ProVantage data show earlier planting dates actually tend to yield better. HOWEVER, a big caution symbol accompanies that statement. Planting early doesn’t mean basic planting principles get thrown out the window.
It is known that a seedling takes its first drink of water at about 48 hours post-planting. Therefore, paying close attention to the 2-day forecast is crucial. Available water in addition to good soil-to-seed contact and adequate oxygen sets up your seedlings for success and decreases the chances of initial stress. That being said, just because your 2-day forecast looks great, doesn’t mean you should disregard the 7 to 10-day forecast. Weather predictions have been wrong a time or two. Erring on the safe side typically pays off in the long run.
A seed will absorb 30% of its weight in water before germination is initiated; regardless of conditions. Radicle (root) and coleoptile (shoot) growth are positively correlated with soil temperatures. If the soil temperature dips below 50 degrees, germination will not occur. This is where problems begin. If seeds sit in the ground for too long after they have absorbed moisture; seed rot and poor emergence can occur. Before planting, make sure your 4” soil temperatures are at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Having a basic understanding of soil moisture and the way water moves in the soil profile will also help aid your decision to begin planting. Water moves upward in the soil where evaporation takes place under drier conditions. When planting into saturated soils, not only are you at a higher risk for compaction, you chance drowning your seeds if water levels do not recede. Water movement and water capacity are all dependent on the soil types you have to work with. For example, fine-textured soils have the least amount of available water when comparing them to medium or coarse-textured soils. Yet another reason why planting when your fields are fit is a much better option than planting just because everyone else is.
Planting is what starts it all. A new season, a new crop, a new set of challenges. Another round of decisions. Most importantly, the foundation for harvest where we hope to see new record-breaking yields. As you all gear up for the madness to strike, we hope you take a second to set a plan on how you are going to make your 2018 crop year better than years past. Stay safe out there, we wish you your best year yet!