In the northern Corn Belt, significant weather delays have slowed planting. But seed experts caution growers not to make snap decisions when it comes to changing the crop mix or moving to a shorter-season hybrid.
“I’m not concerned yet,” says Joe Lauer, extension corn specialist, University of Wisconsin. “In much of the northern Corn Belt, the optimum planting date is between May 1 and May 7. After the optimum date, yields start to decrease at a rate of about ½ bu./day around May 15, accelerating to 2 to 3 bu./day toward the end of May. In general, we won’t see major switching until May 20 to May 25.” He adds that growers in the area can still get a lot of corn planted quickly.
While planting date is important, “corn prices and drying costs drive changes to shorter-season hybrids more than anything,” Lauer says. “Higher corn prices often mean a later switching date, yet higher fuel costs [propane for drying corn] generally mean an earlier switch date.”
Another factor to consider is the final use of your corn. Often, producers can have good yields with full-season hybrids planted late if the corn is being used for high-moisture corn or silage.
Seed availability may also be an issue when making last-minute switches. The time spent choosing that perfect hybrid could be compromised because of a rushed decision to get an earlier-season hybrid.
“At this point we have a good availability of shorter-season hybrids,” says Gary Leeper, sales leader with Dairyland Seed. “But the industry as a whole could see these supplies strained if there are major shifts.”
Sales staff at Dairyland has been fielding calls from anxious producers, but Leeper cautions that it is still early in many parts of the Corn Belt, and corn can make up a lot of ground.
“Corn that’s planted in colder soils is just sitting there waiting for warmer weather,” Leeper says. “So you’re not losing as much as you think.”
Some corn at the University of Wisconsin test plots was planted on April 13. “And we’re just starting to see the radical poking out of the seed coat,” Lauer says. “If you haven’t got your corn in the ground, you haven’t missed a lot of growing degree days.”
Growers who switch to a shorter-season hybrid can expect a reduction in yield, Leeper adds.