orn Planting Fever! No, its not the name of my favorite 70s disco song. Rather, it simply reflects a fact of life that warm, dry, sunny days in early spring bring on daffodils, crabapple blossoms, dandelions and corn planters. While I do not begrudge those who want to begin planting corn in early April, I feel compelled nonetheless to at least remind them of some of the risks of early corn planting.
An important fact of corn life to remember is that germination and emergence will not occur rapidly or uniformly when soil temperatures are hovering at or below the 50 degree F mark. In Indiana, soils typically do not warm to temperatures consistently above 50 degrees F until mid-April (south) to early May (north). In fact, bare soil temperatures as I write this article are averaging less than 50 degrees F in central and northern Indiana (see figures below). Consequently, it is not uncommon for early April planted corn to emerge three to four weeks after planting.
Early April planted corn will typically yield 4 to 6 percent less than that planted in late April or very early May (see table below). Slowly developing seedlings are more susceptible to damage by soil diseases and insects. Slow, uneven germination and emergence results in uneven stand establishment. If uneven emergence or damage by insects or diseases occur, yield losses can easily increase to as high as 20 percent.
Stand establishment may be so poor as to warrant replanting, which results in greater expense to the producer and possibly less yield than if the field were planted in late April or early May to begin with. By the way, if you have planted prior to April 6 and subsequently need to replant a failed field, dont count on your crop insurance helping with the replant expenses (personal communication w/ George Patrick, Purdue Ag. Econ.). Check with your insurance agent for details.
The point of this discussion is to simply caution corn growers that there is plenty of calendar time within which to plant the 2000 crop before the proverbial end of the prime planting window in early May. If you are bound and determined to plant corn at the first opportunity, then consider the following tips: