Don't change planting plans yet

Don't change planting plans yet

By: Jeff Caldwell 04/29/2011 @ 2:23pm

A lot of folks are starting to feel the mounting pressure of continued planting delays. In a recent poll, 32% say they're "a little on-edge" about the weather delays, while 27% say they're "starting to get pretty nervous."

If you're in one of these groups and you're starting to think about changing planting plans, don't jump the gun, says University of Illinois Extension agronomist Emerson Nafziger. Sure, you may be losing a little yield potential right now -- which you may be able to make up for later in the growing season -- but it's no reason to abandon plans you've already made.

We're still weeks away from enough potential yield damage to justify switching to soybeans, Nafziger says. That time usually arrives in late May or early June. And, if you've already done some field prep work, that adds incentive to hold off on any potential changes from corn to soybeans.

"If you have already made crop-specific investments such as applying N fertilizer for corn, this will provide more incentive to stay with corn," Nafziger says in a university report. "This is certainly not a decision to rush into at this point."

What about switching varieties? If you've got bags of full-season seed corn stacked in your shop waiting to hit the field, the wet, cool weather may have you considering a shorter-season variety. Just as with the decision to switch from corn to soybeans, Nafziger advises waiting up to a month before you pull the trigger on shorter-season hybrids even if you're wary about getting all the growing degree days (GDD) you need to get the crop to full maturity.

"Research in Indiana and Ohio has shown that late-planted corn usually (but not always) requires fewer GDD than when the same hybrids are planted early," he says. "This means lower risk of not receiving enough GDD by frost for late-planted corn, but the reduction in GDD requirement is associated with yield loss, so that's not all positive."

Even if you do reach the late-May or early-June timeframe and then can justify the switch to an earlier hybrid, think long and hard before you do, Nafziger says. You may ultimately end up in just as good of shape if you stick to a longer-season variety, especially as you move south in the Corn Belt.

"Bringing early hybrids -- less than 105-day RM -- into the southern half of Illinois may lower risk of frost before maturity, but it also means moving them from their primary area of adaptation into an area where they have not been tested or sold as first-choice hybrids," he says. "In many cases, that does not turn out very well."