As the 1996 planting season proceeds along its cold, sloshy way, the question of proper seeding depth is on the minds of some corn growers. In my humble opinion, the identification of the proper seeding depth depends on primarily one factor: availability of soil moisture.
Growers are always tempted to plant shallow (1-inch or less) when soils are cold and/or wet. Shallow planting makes a certain amount of sense, but is accompanied by a certain amount of risk also. The risk with shallow planting is related to the increased opportunity for excessive or uneven soil drying that can leave corn kernels thirsting for enough moisture to germinate. If the result is uneven emergence, you will be looking at yield losses of 10-20 percent right off the bat.
While excessively dry soils seem to be the least of our problems now, the weather can change very quickly. Following a similar wet April in 1992, many fields in westcentral Indiana were planted shallow in early May and subsequently suffered when the rains quit and soils dried very rapidly.
A seeding depth of one and one-half inches is a fairly all-purpose depth and is about all the shallower I prefer to plant corn. WHEN NECESSARY, I will seed corn as deep as two to three inches if that's where the uniform soil moisture zone is located.
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