Planting even a month early may not substantially lower the risk of excessive heat during pollination in key areas of the Corn Belt, an analysis by the Climate Corporation has found. Its newly released Outlook Report explores a question discussed widely in the grower community during the warm spring of 2012: Is it best to plant early or to wait?

Leveraging the power of its weather data platform, the Climate Corporation has analyzed historic data from over 820 weather stations across 11 Corn Belt states. This analysis shows that for some areas of the Corn Belt, planting early does not substantially reduce the risk of excessive heat that negatively impacts pollination. In other areas, however, growers may see significant benefit from planting even one week early.

Key conclusions

Our analysis showed that the temperature-based benefit to planting early has historically been negligible for most locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northern Iowa and Ohio. The benefit occurs in only one out of 20 years in these areas.

In contrast, the historical data shows that most growers in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and western South Dakota have historically experienced a significant temperature benefit from an early planting. In these locations a corn crop that pollinates in the week of June 17-23 is much less likely to experience a hot week (temperatures above 95 degrees for at least two days) than a corn crop that pollinates during the week of July 15-21 (up to 56% less likely in the most extreme locations).

In these same regions the benefit of early planting can remain significant even if the corn crop pollinates just one week earlier than the week of July 15-21. Numerous locations in these regions see their risk of encountering a hot week during pollination decrease by 20-40% just by pollinating one week earlier, during the week of July 8-14.

Getting seed planted is the first step in producing a corn crop, but the date of planting will have a critical impact on the yield that the crop makes at the end of the year. And while an early or late planting does not by itself guarantee a good or bad yield, an analysis of historical weather patterns can inform the decision making around what risks and benefits a grower can expect to see when planting earlier or later in a given region.

To access the Outlook Report, visit www.climate.com/2012Outlook/Corn-Pollination-Heat-Risk