Should I plant?

Should I plant?

It’s nice to know when farmers are thinking and on the same page.  Today we had numerous phone calls/texts asking, “Should I be planting?”

If the answer were as easy as the question, this would be a piece of cake.  Yet, you as farmers do know farming is not even close to a “piece of cake.”

So to make this as short and sweet as possible, here it is.  You have two choices.  On one side you have the option to plant or the other to sit back and be patient and watch the forecast.  Here’s the reality though – it’s more in depth than that.  To make this decision properly, we really need to first understand plant physiology and growth, and the short term forecast. 

We must also understand and realize that there are risks, consequences, and rewards to every single decision we make.  These decisions, unfortunately, are what bother us as farmers the most.  Because what if we’re wrong?  But, what if we’re right? 

And what if we make decisions based on Sound Principles and Synergies vs. the shotgun approach?  Which give us the best possible outcome?

Here again is why calculated risks, based off of understanding, tip the odds in our favor.  At least most often.

Corn is a determinate plant.  When yield is lost, it is lost forever - regardless of how much effort, money, and management one puts into a corn crop.  This is also why we struggle to achieve consistent final yields of roughly 20-25% of genetic yield potential (Brix levels also correlate to a very similar percentage).   With corn yields, there is nothing that actually provides a yield increase after planting.  Corn yields are 100% about yield preservation – from the day we plant, until the day we harvest.  How much do we “preserve”?  Anything that leads to uneven emergence in corn (the first yield loss)  will cost you bushels and money. 

Beans on the other hand (at least most beans planted in the Midwest) are the exact opposite.  They are indeterminate.  They are more forgiving, and can recover from early stresses without near as much “lost yield”.

 Corn synthesizes/needs micro nutrients/trace minerals early in its life cycle much more than later.  WHY?  Because it is a determinate plant.  If you lack these precious minerals early, you lose yield and likely not just a few bushels.  Beans are the opposite.  Recall our chart of Vegetative growth minerals compared to Reproductive.

 We’re not going to give a straight answer of yes or no.  Why?  Because it’s our decision, and we are not accountable for your success or lack thereof.  Can we play a role in either outcome?  Absolutely, we can.  And that is why we will not, and should not be asked on what to do based on opinion alone. It’s why we rely on GOOD SCIENCE and FACTS. 

 Many of the “poor” corn yields of 2020 (and 2019) started at planting into adverse conditions that also lasted for an extended period of time. 

 Our role is not to “tell” you what to do.  Our role and responsibility in working with every one of you is to better educate you, so you have better understanding to once again – tip the odds in your favor.  What you do with this education is up to you and solely your accountability.  Yes, we’ve been wrong many times in the past and will also in the future.  Yet, we’ve also hit the nail on the head.  There is no silver bullet in farming, and we should stop expecting one.  The only thing close to the “silver bullet” is building soils that have resiliency, and that takes education and fact based understanding.

Without “playing” both sides.  Here’s our RX –

  1. If it’s too wet, don’t even consider it.  It’s only April 15th.  There is absolutely zero excuse for slopping seeds in the ground and then blaming anyone or anything else. 
  2. We’re all for reduced tillage (where practical), but one simple “hack” to putting the odds in your favor is to at least use some light tillage to help soils warm more effectively.
  3. Don’t go crazy in trying to plant as many acres as possible in a short period of time.  At least not right now.  I do actually think that planting into soils/fields with the right conditions is ok right now – it’s a risk likely worth taking.
  4. We had many similar questions about 2 weeks ago, and honestly the answers then were much easier –
    1. Yes we had cold temps, but the short term forecast was very favorable and it actually turned out better than forecasted.  Corn/beans planted April 2nd – 6thstood a very good chance of emerging timely and consistently.
    2. If a problem were to arise, it wasn’t likely due to poor/uneven emergence.  The problem in this time period of planting was and still is an untimely frost.  Beans are most susceptible to a frost just as they are emerging from the soil.  Corn is more susceptible from V2 and later.  If you have corn that gets injured by frost at especially V3 or later the replant question is much simpler to deal with – likely tear it up and start over.  The frost/freeze temperature and time under stress is also a much greater factor.  If you have questions/concerns on this, especially in corn let me know and I’ll dig that old data up.
    3. Planting beans will withstand the cool/cold weather over the next 10 days more efficiently than corn. Unless you are planting untreated beans into a soil with a poor Ca:Mg ratio.  This poor Ca:Mg ratio is one that no crop should be planted into with confidence, let alone hope.
    4. Corn has 3 main Critical Points of Influence (CPI) –
- 9-12 days post emergence = number of ears per plant (this period is also very much dependent on Ca, B, and managing nitrates properly).  If you want to finish more than one ear per plant, you also must earn that right with the proper nutrient balance.
- 14-21 days post emergence = ear girth or number of rows around.  Often past research shows that ear girth isn’t determined until V5-V6.  What time period after emergence is a typical V5 plant?
If it is in fact V5-V6, why don’t we consistently see more 18-22 row ear girth?
- 42-49 days post emergence = number of kernels per row
    • Using products such as Green Leaf X (GLX) will help plants deal with early stress more efficiently than those without the proper growth hormones and trace minerals.  Plants with the proper nutrient balance and hormonal balance can and will have better stress resiliency than those lacking.  GLX should also be used with all herbicide applications for the same reasons.
    • High plant nitrates are the leading cause of disease and yield loss.
    • Do not lose sight on the importance of Ca, B, and Mo.
5. And finally, this is also exactly why Soil Health is so important – soils that actually function properly have the resilience that every farmer needs for high profits.