Today is April 7 and as this was written there was a chance for showers/thunderstorms for the area. The weather the last week and forecasted for this week in the 70s should help warm up the soil. Although soil warming will be slowed by soil moisture levels in most spots. Also crop residue surface cover will slow warming, however, it also prevents as mush cooling at night. As of 7 a.m. this past Friday the two-inch soil temperature in Stafford county under native grass cover was 49 degrees Fahrenheit. The four-inch soil temperature was 56. At Hays the two-inch temperature is 46, the four-inch 47. Normally, producers in this area like to wait till about mid-April or a bit later to plant corn, especially dryland corn. They want warm soils for rapid germination. This year provides challenges mentioned before in this column. What should producers do with a forecast two-weeks out predicting cooler than normal temperatures and a strong chance of above normal rainfall for the area? This is especially a challenge where producers have had difficulties getting into the field with wet conditions and are behind in weed control, fertilization, and for many tillage.
• Much of this depends on field conditions. How wet, how weedy, and what condition the seedbed is in are all considerations. Another factor is what fertility is necessary. Are broadcast and incorporation of fertilizer necessary? Can a producer get away with starter fertilizer and banding and come back with their nitrogen? Can you get away with a post emergence herbicide for weeds, say glyphosate and maybe 2,4-D.
• Can a producer who normally tills now before planting instead plant corn no-till? Could a producer get away with some shallow, minimal tillage and then plant. The need for tillage depends on several conditions – weed pressure and type of weeds, amount and thickness of residue, and soil conditions.
• Should a producer wait for better conditions, especially warmer soil temperatures, and drier soil? Is the soil dry enough to avoid compaction? Is there a concern that soils will be too wet with predicted rains over the next several weeks? At least in our area soils at two and four inches are right around or above fifty degrees. That will work for corn. Germination won’t set speed records but with seed treatments, fungicides and insecticides, seed should be fine. The other questions are for each producer to answer. Something to consider is that most times planting earlier is less likely to hurt yields than planting late. And if we receive predicated rainfall, planting cold be delayed into May. That could make a mess of planting grain sorghum and/or soybeans. It could make fall harvest and wheat planting plans a challenge (see this past fall). And it make necessitate switching corn hybrids or even crops.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.