How many times have we heard this adage or something like it? In real terms, it basically says that once we lay the foundation for something we will have to live with it - and the consequences.
It's kind of like planting; the first step in a crop's life, and probably the one we have the most control over. When you think about it, most farmers only plant a crop about 40 times, give or take, during their lifetime. This is less than half the number of games a hockey team plays through a single season! In other words, we can't afford to make too many mistakes, if we want to have a winning season.
We have had a few questions around conditions at and post planting and the importance of the seed's first few days. I have listed some of these questions and tried to answer any concerns as follows:
Q. How deep should I be planting?
A. It's critical that most of the corn seedlings emerge uniformly. It is desirable to have approximately one inch of moist soil above the seed. If you have a fine, moist seed bed, two inches should be proper planting depth. Good seed to soil contact is crucial in starting the seed out on the right foot. Like a proper-fitting shoe, it provides a comfortable environment to be in!
A. In conditions where soil temperatures are lower (i.e., early season, cool season, no-till, etc.) and when soil moisture levels are adequate, producers should consider that shallower planting (1.50 -1.75 inches) is warranted. At these depths the germination process generally compensates and assures suitable positioning of the growing point and nodal roots. (NOTE - not recommending anything less than 1.5")
Q. What happens when the conditions are wet at planting?
A. We need to ensure that the ground is FIT at planting. The last thing we want is for the seed trench to 'smear.' Soil that is 'pushed' may result in either premature drying-out, or crusting after periods of rainy, wet conditions. If the soil sticks together or you can make a ball out of it, rolling it around in your hands, it's too wet to plant - go fish.
A. Under adequate field conditions, the planted seed absorbs water (approx. 50% of its weight) and begins to grow. A soil temperature of 10 degrees C. (or 50 degrees F.) is required for germination. The radicle is the first to begin elongation, followed by the coleoptile, and then three or four lateral seminal roots. This process can take just a few days under ideal conditions to a few weeks under adverse conditions, such as cool and wet.
Q. So when does the plant emerge?
A. After germination, and approximately 150 chu accumulation, emergence is finally obtained by rapid mesocotyl elongation, pushing the coleoptile to the soil surface. The length of the first internode depends upon the depth of the planting. The main root system of the corn plant develops from the nodes above the seed near the ground level. They form from about an inch below the soil surface - no matter how deep the seed is planted.
Q. How important is the seed bed to the roots in producing a high yielding plant?
A. The growth and activity of the plant's root system is a limiting factor in maximizing crop yields. Stunting or restriction of the root system during this time period (dry soil, wet soil, cold soil, insect damage, herbicide damage, sidewall compaction, tillage compaction) can easily inhibit the entire plant's development. In fact, when you are attempting to diagnose the cause of stunted corn early in the season, the first place to begin the search is below ground.
Q. What about planting later in May or June? Is it still important to worry about a good seed bed or just get it in?
A. A good seed bed and placement is important any time you plant. There is no need to rush planting later in the season. Patience will be a virtue going forward and making the right decisions will positively impact yields. There is still plenty of time to have good yields even with late May planting - the key will be to have all of the YIFs (Yield Influencing Factors) working for you and that starts with the seed and where it's placed.
So to summarize, it all starts with a proper seed bed and good seed-to-soil contact...and while there are many factors that will determine the outcome at the end of the season, the better job we do in preparing a good seedling environment, the better chance we will have to encourage better germination, emergence, root development and plant health on the road to successful yields.
If we put a seed into a poorly made bed, we will need lady luck on our side, not just the weather man to compensate for any issue that will come of this. Timely rainfall and adequate temperatures from here on in are up to the weather man...paying attention to weed control, fertility (including adequate nitrogen), fungicide application (to alieviate stress at pollination) etc are all things that we can manage.
Contact your PRIDE Seeds agronomist for any questions you have at or post-planting. They will help you make the best, informed decision as it pertains to planting this year's crop in some less than ideal conditions. This assessment may be around hybrid selection, maturities, end use and post planting management of the crop.