Planting 2019: “The sins of planting may haunt you all season” – Jon Erickson, Mycogen Seeds
Perhaps, as you are reading this, spring planting for 2019 has already commenced. Depending on your geography, Mother Nature may present various potential obstacles to establish uniform stand emergence and, ultimately, prevent the seed you have chosen to plant this year from achieving its full potential.
Plant stand uniformity and emergence can be impacted by a number of factors. These include excess snow and moisture conditions leading to wet soils; a late spring leading to the temptation to get into the fields for field work and planting before conditions are fit; and, ultimately, compressing many jobs to do in a small window (haul manure, apply fertilizer, chop stalks, etc.). The adage in the title, plus “you only get one chance to do it right,” aptly apply to planting corn. It is never good to find yourself in a replant situation. So be patient, be prepared and plant corn when conditions are fit for success!
What can you do if you find issues with emergence in your stands? Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in this situation, but, somewhere, someone will find this to be the case. Here are some guidelines to help you work through this process.
Stand establishment depends on the success or failure of germination and on early season stresses. If you notice early stand problems, carefully examine damaged seedlings to discover clues to the likely causes.
Factors to consider
- Environmental stress
- Management issues
- Soil condition
- Emergence roadblock
- Understand the environmental factors affecting stands. Soil temperature and moisture are crucial to stand establishment. Cool, wet soils can greatly slow early corn seedling development and predispose seedlings to rot and blight. Ensure soil temperature is at, or quickly approaching, 50 degrees F to prevent early seed injury.
- Prepare the seedbed properly. Avoid working wet ground and creating cloddy seedbeds, which are a major cause of uneven stands. Check surface residue and adjust equipment as needed to evenly distribute residue.
- Monitor factors within your control. Corn sometimes emerges unevenly due to environmental factors outside of your control. However, timely planter service and adjustment, as well as appropriate management practices, can help achieve a robust stand. Be mindful of planting depth, press wheel settings, speed, and fertilizer and pesticide application.
- Scout fields early and often. After planting, closely monitor fields for soil crust. Use a rotary hoe if a crust prevents uniform emergence. Check for highly compacted or poorly drained soils as these are prone to root rot caused by Pythium and Fusarium. These common fungi attack plants and cause damping-off or seedling blight symptoms, especially under wet conditions. Insects can also cause stand issues. White grubs feed on roots, causing plants to appear stunted, wilted, discolored or even dead. Cutworms attack virtually anywhere and can cause extensive crop damage. Often, an infested field will have a mixed population of several species of cutworms. Because cutworms vary in their feeding habits, early diagnosis of infestation is essential.
Few management decisions are as important as those made during planting. Young plants are vulnerable to pests and environmental conditions. Healthy young plants are essential for the crop to reach full yield potential. The primary goal of troubleshooting is to determine and correct the issue before it affects yield. For more information, utilize your local seed agronomist or trusted agronomic adviser for assistance to diagnose a problem situation.