Waiting on cold corn

There’s optimism for early-planted corn, despite its long time in the ground

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Corn planted early this spring saw some chilly spells while still in the ground, but OMAFRA corn specialist Ben Rosser says that although a bit behind, it will still make it through. 

Why it matters: Compared to spring of 2019, farmers are on the ground much earlier this year. But cold spells throughout this spring has seeds taking longer than normal to germinate.

“The biggest risk in getting things started is when they talk about that 24 to 48 hours after planting. The first water that seed takes up, if it’s really cold it could cause some big issues,” says Rosser.

That’s why you could almost hear the screeching in early May when farmers parked planters for several days when winter briefly returned with snow and freezing temperatures.

Rosser says for the early planted corn in April this wasn’t much of an issue.

Soil conditions were still, cool but farmers never experienced a big snow melt or any cold rain after planting.

“I think the fact that things have stayed relatively dry has bode fairly well, even though things have been on the cool side.”

Rosser says he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to look at the early-planted corn but the corn planted near the end of April, around the 24th and 25th is looking good.

“It hasn’t moved a whole lot because it’s cold but it had a healthy shoot on it, had healthy roots. Things looked good. Soil conditions were fairly good. Things are cool, but again, given that they were also fairly dry it seemed to give it a good start.”

The second weekend in May brought on some cooler than normal temperatures, and even some heavier snow falls for different parts of Ontario. This made it a little more difficult for growers to know when and how close up to that they should be planting.

“There was a lot of conversation around how late you plant up to that snow fall they were calling for. It’s dependent on the grower. Some growers were saying ‘I’ll plant until Wednesday’ and others saying ‘maybe it’s not worth the risk of trying to push things up too close to that snowfall.”

Following the heavy snowfall, conditions favoured growers who had planted corn earlier as the snow melt didn’t create a large cold seed saturation.

The percentage of Ontario corn planted as of May 11 was variable as many producers had most of their corn completely planted on the lighter soil but those on clay soils had yet to start.

“Estimates are probably well over 50 per cent for sure (as of mid-May), with some suggesting maybe 75 per cent overall across the province. Again, those are rough guesses.”

When planting early it’s been said to plant shallower to allow the seed to get off to a good start but there has been some discussion as to whether that is the right decision or not.

“If you’re going maybe a little bit deeper you’ve got less variability in temperature. That has been a big point of conversation right now, I know there are some trials going on looking at planting depth.”

Although farmers are much earlier than last year, there is still some forgiveness for planting date.

“We are not losing yield for that May 1st and onwards, we are still in that window. In the big picture we are not in terrible shape.”

Ontario is expected to show a slight increase in corn acres.

About the author


Jennifer Glenney

Jennifer is a farm reporter who lives in Cayuga, Ontario.



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