Early Planting Caution

Early Planting Caution

Update on Planting Conditions

April 7, 2015

Conditions in many areas may be right to start planting corn, but that doesn't tell the whole story.  One-day soil temperatures on April 5 were above 50⁰F for almost all locations in Nebraska, with some locations in south central Nebraska above 55⁰F. These temperatures are above normal and a week ahead of schedule for locations in central Nebraska.

Soil temperatures as of 7:45 a.m. April 6.
Figure 1. Soil temperatures as of 7:45 a.m. April 6. (Source: High Plains Regional Climate Center)

In addition to current soil temperatures, growers should also consider the Risk Management Agency (RMA) early planting crop insurance restriction and temperature and precipitation predictions for the next two weeks. The RMA restriction is April 10 for the eastern two-thirds of Nebraska and April 15 for the western one-third.

Another concern is the weather forecast for this week. On average this week, high temperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s and lows in the mid 30s, which will stall the warming of and, most likely, decrease soil temperatures.  There are also a number of chances for precipitation this week; however, the moisture on Wednesday and Thursday could come in the form of a rain-snow mix for central and western Nebraska.

The concern with this is the potential imbibitional chilling injury of corn. It is unclear at what temperature this causes injury, but plants that imbibe cold water (in the low 40s) within the first 48 hours after planting are undoubtedly affected.  Planting ahead of cold rain may lead to cell membrane damage, reducing growth rate and interfering with the growth of the emerging seedling.

Another concern is the risk of a hard freeze that, on average, extends well into May for portions of western Nebraska.Early planted corn will assume most of the risk for damage from a hard freeze.

On the plus side, the 6-10 Day (April 12-16) Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has increased odds for above-normal temperatures, which should quickly rebound soil temperatures. The 8-14 Day (April 14-20) forecast has equal chances for above- or below-normal temperatures for Nebraska with the warmer temperatures expected in the northwest U.S. and cooler temperatures to our south and northeast. The CPC is also forecasting above-normal precipitation for the eastern half of Nebraska from April 12-16 and equal chances for above or below-normal precipitation from April 14-20 , which may provide a better window for planting.  The forecast for the upper level pattern is quite turbulent, so we may continue to see a number of weather events move through the area and make planting a day-to-day decision.

Sources/more information:

Tyler Williams
Extension Educator

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A field of corn.