Waiting for 50

Farmer Iron

There are a few magic numbers in agriculture, especially in the spring.

Published on: March 21, 2013

What is it about 50 degrees F? Really. You shouldn't apply fall anhydrous ammonia before soil temperatures fall below this magic number. Growing degree days - for corn, soybeans and rice - use that 50 as a base number as part of the calculation. And perhaps the hardest 50? The wait or your soil temps to rise that high before planting.

With below-30-degree days common this first week of spring, that 50-degree soil temperature in the Midwest is going to take some time to achieve. That'll slow down your planting schedule - perhaps even keeping you out of the field a little longer.

Doesn't look like it's going to start warming up much before April, and last week I talked about the big wait. I'm intrigued by the number 50, having crossed the magic barrier in birthdays awhile ago. I just find it fascinating that the same number is so important to agriculture.

So dig out that soil thermometer - you do have one right? And start the big watch and wait.

Of course the difference between waiting for 50 in the soil, versus turning 50 years old is that you want the soil to pass 50.

This looks as though it will be an interesting planting year again. On my drive through Iowa last week I saw standing water - okay it was frozen  - but it was great to see it. There's some controversy over who much of that water will be around for soil when the frost goes out. However, even if it thaws and drains to the river there would be a benefit.

This is an odd spring, for sure. But following that drought, it can't get weirder. At the end of the day, we're still looking for a 50.