Field Focus: The importance of Proper Planting Conditions

May 07, 2024

By: John McNamara, Seed Technical Advisor 

As we navigate through an extended wet period, it's natural to feel the pressure mounting about planting decisions. However, rushing into planting before the soil conditions are optimal can have detrimental effects on your corn yield potential. Let's delve into why patience truly pays off and how to identify fit soil conditions for planting.

Understanding Corn's Vulnerability:

Corn's fibrous root system is sensitive to underground restrictions, especially sidewall compaction caused by planting on wet soils. This compaction hinders seedling development by creating barriers to root growth. Proper seed slot closure is crucial for optimal seed-to-soil contact, preventing issues like shallow seed placement and sidewall compaction.

Identifying Fit Soil Conditions:

To determine if soil is suitable for planting, perform a simple test. Soil from a depth of 3 to 4 inches should form a ball that easily fractures when dropped, or it shouldn't form a ball at all. Another method involves creating a soil ribbon between your thumb and fingers. Fit soil will crumble easily without forming a significant ribbon.

Mitigating Sidewall Compaction:

Sidewall compaction can lead to reduced germination, uneven emergence, and stunted seedlings. Greasing the furrow during planting can hinder seed-to-soil contact, exacerbating these issues. Check seed furrows for unbroken, 'V'-shaped walls, which can harden and inhibit root penetration when soils dry. Soaking rains can temporarily alleviate sidewall compaction by softening the soil.

The image above shows sidewall compaction in fields drying after a wet planting season. Soils with good structure would have furrow walla fracturing around the seed and seed furrows would remain closed. 

Preventing Sidewall Compaction During Growing Season:

Plants with restricted root growth may exhibit nutrient deficiencies later in development, leading to reduced yield potential. Floppy corn syndrome, caused by shallow planting and sidewall compaction, can occur before the V5 to V6 growth stage. Machinery settings play a crucial role in reducing sidewall compaction, including reducing down-pressure on gauge wheels and leaving residue over the row to minimize soil shrinking in the seed furrow.


Patience is key when it comes to planting corn. Rushing into planting before soil conditions are optimal can significantly impact yield potential. By understanding the vulnerabilities of corn and implementing proper planting practices, you can maximize yield potential and set the stage for a successful growing season.

Remember, it's better to wait for the right conditions than to rush and compromise your crop's potential! Contact your local Frontier Ag Advisor if you have questions or need reccomendations. They would be happy to help! 

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