Field Focus: Key Tips for Optimal Emergence

Mar 13, 2024

By John McNamara 
Seed Technical Advisor 

As we gear up for the upcoming planting season, it's crucial to revisit fundamental practices for achieving optimal corn planting and emergence. Planting is a make-or-break moment in the growing season, and the decisions made during this phase significantly impact yield potential. Let's delve into time-tested tips to enhance seedling development and ensure a successful planting season.

1. Precision Planter Speed:

One common oversight during corn planting is neglecting planter speed. Slow down for success – maintaining a consistent speed of 5 mph is proven to ensure depth control and seed spacing, resulting in uniform emergence. Rain-delayed planting can cut yields and jeopardize crop maturity, so earlier is generally better, within reason.

2. Planting Depth Mastery:

Achieving the right planting depth is critical. Aim for 2-2 ¼ inches, or 2 ½ inches for early April planting. Avoid extremes – shallow planting exposes nodal roots, while overly deep planting demands extra seed energy, potentially leading to issues like Rootless Corn Syndrome. Deeper planting in early April minimizes yo-yo soil temperatures.

3. Achieving Uniform Emergence:

Strive for a "picket fence" corn stand with consistent plant spacing to minimize yield losses. Keep a close eye on soil temperature and moisture, key factors for even emergence. Uneven seedling emergence can cause grain yield losses ranging from 7 to 20 percent.

4. Harness Growing Degree Units (GDUs):

Understanding GDUs is vital, with around 125 needed for most corn and soybean crops. Monitor soil temperature for optimal germination emergence. Soil temperatures closer to 50 degrees than 40 are generally better for sustained water uptake into the seed.

5. Mastering Soil Moisture:

Recognize the significance of soil moisture in achieving uniform emergence. Address potential moisture disparities across your fields, considering varying water-holding capacities. Soil moisture is a limiting factor in routinely achieving uniform/even emergence, especially during dry conditions. Imbibitional chilling emphasizes the importance of warmer soil water temperatures.

Additional Insights:

  • Optimal Planting Dates: Debate surrounds the ideal planting window, but across Eastern Nebraska, corn planted between April 20th-30th typically has the best yield potential. Prioritize time and equipment management for a successful planting season.

  • Seeding Rate: Embrace advancements in hybrid genetics; consider higher populations (30,000 to 32,000 seeds/acre) for superior returns. Experiment with higher populations on a small scale to gauge performance on your unique soil and under your management.

  • Fertilizer Under Dry Conditions: Exercise caution with speed-placed fertilizer in dry conditions to avoid hindering germination with high salt concentrations. Stay informed about the salt index of fertilizer materials and adjust application based on soil moisture levels.

By implementing these proven tips, you set the stage for a successful planting season and elevate your yield potential. Remember, precision and attention to detail during planting contribute significantly to the overall success of your corn crop. Stay tuned for more insights and updates as we navigate the planting season together.

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