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Get ready for April

Maybe the mercury is at zero and there’s 6 inches of snow outside as you read this. Maybe not. Either way, odds are your target date for corn planting is less than three months away. The Indiana Certified Crop Advisers crops panel continues the age-old debate about which hybrids to plant first.

I’m ready to lay out my planting plans for this spring. I’ve got hybrids that range from 102 to 114 days in maturity. Assuming I start planting about April 20 in central Indiana, what order should I plant in? Why?

Danny Greene, Greene Consulting Inc., Franklin: There’s often a yield advantage to planting corn on the early side. You avoid some mid- to late-season heat and drought risks. Be sure to plant every hybrid in time to black layer and dry down. I would plant the longest-season hybrids first and shortest-season hybrids last to take advantage of the season’s heat units.

However, you should keep flexible enough to plant a short-season hybrid early if it has good early-season vigor. This would allow you to get into the field quickly next fall, test your combine and take advantage of any early delivery premiums. Avoid planting a lodging-prone hybrid late, since it would have to stand to dry in a time frame when drying has slowed down. (Also remember that very late-planted corn tends to get taller.)

Ryan McAllister, Beck’s Hybrids, Parker City: With corn, I always want to plant my 114-day corn first and go down from there. I need my full-season corn to reach black layer for drydown purposes, and it needs that additional time to do that.

Jeff Nagel, Ceres Solutions, Lafayette: Traditionally, the recommendations are to plant full-season hybrids first to maximize the growing season and ensure they are planted timely. The ability to plant so rapidly today along with the desire for earlier harvest and drier corn has led many growers to start with their earliest hybrids and progress to fuller-season maturities.

Since growers can plant so quickly, planting earlier maturities first may actually spread out weather-related risks during the growing season. It also can lead to a more timely harvest by getting started earlier and not having everything mature so close together. Final yield outcome will ultimately be determined by weather conditions during key reproductive stages and grain fill.

Here comes the monkey wrench

The $64,000 unanswerable question when you plan which hybrids to plant first is what the season will be like. The 2009 and 2010 seasons set the extremes on both sides of the window. How the season turns out may determine whether your strategy looks right or wrong.

Look at this graph prepared by Bob Nielsen, Purdue University corn specialist. Note that 2009 started off cool and never caught up. On the flip side, 2010 started off warm and never looked back.

Percent of corn crop mature for Indiana: select years


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Source: Robert Nielsen, Purdue University Agronomy Department

This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.