Late planting not reason for worry, yet

MARSHALL – The snow is gone, but cool temperatures are still delaying planting.

According to the National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast, local temperatures are expected to dip below freezing nightly and only reach a temperature as high as 55 degrees by Sunday.

This is not good news for corn growers, but neither is it cause for alarm until another two to three weeks.

“We had a couple guys planting yesterday (Tuesday), but now it looks like a May 8 to 10 starting date,” said Mike Homandberg, agronomist with Hefty Seed Company’s Marshall office.

Corn needs a soil temperature of 50 degrees to germinate, and according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture monitoring station near Russell, the six-inch soil temperature was only 47 degrees as of Wednesday morning.

“The longer seed stays in the ground without germinating, the more possibility of a disease setting in,” Homandberg said.

Under ideal conditions, farmers like to have corn planted around the last week of April or first week of May. The later in the season corn is planted, the lower the yield is likely to be. As a result, farmers may want to trade in the seed they bought in November and December for early-maturing varieties – if there is any.

“If no corn is planted by May 20, then they’ll want to switch,” said Lyle Thiesse, a seed salesman for Helena Chemical Company’s Marshall office.

Standard varieties of corn mature in 97 to 105 days, according to Homandberg. There are varieties bred to mature in 93 to 95 days, but there isn’t much available.

“Normally seed retailers will have extra seed inventory, but last year’s drought left us short,” Homandberg said. “Normally the yield averages about 60 bushels an acre. Last year, it was 24 to 25 bushels an acre. In all 30 of our stores in the region, we’ve got about 200 bags of early corn available, enough to plant about 400 acres.”

Still Thiesse said he’s not worried yet.

“If they want to switch, then we’ll have to find it,” Thiesse said. “There’s a little around at this point, I’m not too concerned about it. And if the harvest is early, they’ve all got dryers. They just haven’t used them in two or three years.”