By Steve Prochaska, Ohio State University Extension
The weather conditions this year have not favored very early planting of corn and soybeans. However, both corn and soybeans can yet be planted with full yield potential. When soil conditions become favorable, both crops can be planted without great risk to cold weather injury. There are, however, certain attributes associated with each (corn and soybeans) that should be considered if only one crop can be planted at a time. What follows below is risk/benefit analysis to corn and /or soybean planting given the possible time and field constraints that are very possible in 2011.
Risks to early planted orn
1. Uneven or reduced plant emergence due to extended periods of wet, cold weather can significantly reduce corn yields.
2. If need to replant, there is a loss of growing season and corn yield potential.
3. Cost of replanting in the event of failure.
4. Additional weed control costs due to lack of early crop canopy or need to control corn from early failed planting.
5. In failed plantings where corn is replanted, loss of applied nitrogen may occur via leaching or de-nitrification due extended exposure to weather extremes and the period of heavy nitrogen use by the corn plant (grand growth stage) will likely be delayed if corn is replanted.
6. Pre-emergence corn herbicides applied may preclude planting soybeans in the event of corn stand failure.
7. Any nitrogen applied for corn is essentially lost if failed corn is replanted to soybeans.
Risks to early planted soybeans
1. Poor emergence (due to a variety of possible factors such as extended periods of wet, cold weather, soil pathogen infection, insect attack, etc).
2. Loss of growing season if stand is lost and replanting is necessary (may be less yield loss to replanting soybeans than penalty to replanting corn).
3. Cost of replanting in the event of stand failure.
4. Hard freeze after soybeans are up may kill plants (soybeans will withstand temperatures to about 27 degrees F; however the probability of such an event will be low in 2011 given the weather delays).
5. Possible added weed control costs due to lack of early crop canopy if soybean growth is delayed to unfavorable weather conditions.
Soybeans – Factors to consider if planting early
1. More time to evaluate and make a mitigating response in the event of a poor soybean stand while maintaining yield potential (than corn).
2. May tolerate an imperfect seed bed better than corn and will compensate over reduced plant populations (must still have a relatively uniform stand).
3. Soybeans have the ability to flex over different final plant stands, weather extremes and planting dates, and still yield well.
4. Spreading of harvest work load.
5. Seed treatments such as Apron, Maxim, etc may help protect soybean seeds from various soil pathogens that may be present in the soil environment.
6. Not any significant loss of primary nutrients (P2O5 and K2O) applied to soybeans in event of crop failures.
7. Opportunity to plant wheat in a timely manner in late September or early October by the possibility of an earlier soybean harvest.
8. Extended growing seasons with high quality sunlight (more photosynthesis possible). The maximum amount of sunlight occurs in the months of May, June and July in Ohio.
9. Opportunity to grow later maturity soybeans.
10. Most favorable temperatures and soil moisture levels for crop growth and development may occur from April 25 to July 15, as opposed to July 15 to September 1 (carbohydrate deposition).
11. Opportunity to grow and harvest high yield soybeans (yields greater than 60 bushels per acre). Later planting may not allow such an opportunity due to loss of growing season.
Corn – Factors to Consider if Planting Early
1. Extended growing season with high quality sunlight (more photosynthesis possible) and perhaps maximum yield potential. The maximum amount of sunlight occurs in the months of May, June and July in Ohio.
2. Generally, adequate moisture for early season crop development.
3. Generally more favorable temperatures for crop growth and development and thus carbohydrate deposition.
4. Pollination may also occur during a period of more favorable temperatures and soil moisture availability.
4. May offer best seedbed of year and thus reduce yield robbing soil compaction.
5. Spreading out of the work load (both spring and fall).
6. Seed treatments such as Apron and Maxim may help to protect corn from various soil pathogens in adverse soil environments.
7. Can withstand a frost as long as growing points below ground.
8. Opportunity to grow and harvest highest yielding corn.
9. Longer growing season and thus the opportunity to have dryer corn at harvest.
10. Opportunity to grow full season corn hybrids and thus reduce production risks associated with growing only a single maturity hybrid or only short season hybrids(s).
One of the major attributes of successful farmers is timeliness. With our present knowledge and experience of planting corn and soybeans, there are reasons to consider planting soybeans before or at the same time as corn if equipment and labor is available.
With farm size increasing, and many working off the farm, it is imperative to effectively utilize all available planting days. Stating it in another way, one of the major impediments to large or small farm operation success is the lack of planting time on dry soils. Thus, realizing there are later time windows to replant soybeans or repair poor stands and maintain high yields and one realistically may have but one chance to get a good stand with corn for maximum yield potential in 2011, soybeans might be the better option if planting under less than ideal soil conditions.