In late April, with corn planting already hindered due to a soggy spring, many Mid-South producers are facing forecasts calling for rain through the first week of May.
“Early planting has been difficult,” says Jason Kelley, Arkansas Extension corn and wheat specialist. “Actually, that’s an understatement. Lots of farmers have been calling about late planting and worrying about corn stands. There’d be one day of dry weather and farmers would plant. Then, it’d rain and would take a week to dry down. Another day to plant and here come the rains again.”
If one judges the last three years’ early-planted corn strictly on early-season problems, “it wouldn’t appear to be the route to take. Two years ago, there was the devastating Easter freeze. Last year, it rained non-stop in early spring. This year, it hasn’t rained as much, but it might as well have because there have been similar results.”
Growers in Mississippi’s south Delta region “were aggressive planting from March 5 to March 10 and, again, from March 20 through March 24,” says Erick Larson, Mississippi Extension corn and wheat specialist. “Those two periods were about the only opportunities to plant that month.”
There was another good planting window around April 6. “But in general the windows have been tiny. Those in the state with well-drained soils and more conventional tillage got in the field a bit earlier. If we’d have gotten another rain or two, there would have been some corn acreage lost to other crops.”
There has already been much replanting and stand-related problems in Mississippi. That’s been particularly true of the early March planting period.
Unlike its neighbors, Louisiana producers got corn planting “started a little early,” says Ronnie Levy, LSU AgCenter corn and soybean specialist. “Then, the cool weather and successive rains began and that led to some stand problems. When it’s cold and wet corn just doesn’t grow very well.
“Now, though, that’s mostly turned around and the corn crop is taking off. It appears most everyone was able to get their pre-emerge herbicides out so weed issues aren’t a major deal.”
Levy has also fielded questions on fertilizer. Farmers are “asking how much fertilizer was lost to all the rains. That hasn’t been determined but, obviously, we’re hoping it’s minimal because of the cost of adding fertilizer.”
Right now, farmers are asking “‘why is my corn so slow? Why is it taking so long to come up?’” says Kelley. “Not that long ago, soil temperatures were still in the 50s.”
Missouri spring crop planting delayed by cold weather in early April faces more delays by late-April rainfall, says Pat Guinan, University of Missouri climatologist.
Cool temperatures kept soils from warming and delayed corn planting across much of the state in early April. In Columbia, the first 14 days of April were the tenth coldest for that time in 120 years, said Guinan, a weather specialist with the MU Commercial Agriculture Program.
Cool air kept soil temperatures in the 40s, except in the Bootheel.
“We need soil temperatures at least 50 degrees for corn planting,” said Bill Wiebold, MU Extension agronomist. “Warm, moist soils encourage rapid seed germination and plant emergence soon after planting.”
In cool soils, seeds that fail to germinate quickly are subject to rot or insect damage.