With corn planting knocking at our door, now is a great time to review a few key recommendations to ensure the 2022 season gets off to a great start. A rapid and uniform stand is critical in achieving a productive crop.
It is very important to plant when conditions are favorable because corn seedlings can be negativity affected by adverse conditions. Soil temperature, soil moisture, and planting depth are three factors that can influence corn establishment.
Soil temperature is the main factor influencing seedling growth rate. Cool soils (below 50 degrees Fahrenheit) can impede germination and seedling growth. Good germination and emergence can be expected once the soil temperature at a 2-inch depth reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit by 9 a.m. for three consecutive days.
This normally occurs in late February and March in Louisiana. In most years, the planting window for south Louisiana is Feb. 25 to March 20. For north Louisiana, it is generally March 10 to April 1. However, planting decisions should be based on soil temperature and not the calendar.
Adequate and uniform soil moisture is needed in the seed zone for proper corn establishment. Adequate moisture is usually defined as soil that is not too dry and not too wet. Excess soil saturation can kill corn seedlings, limit aeration, and hinder root development.
Uneven soil moisture in the seed zone can lead to uneven seedling emergence and is generally a result of different soil types, tillage patterns, and inconsistent seeding depth. Closely monitoring soil moisture prior to planting will help ensure your corn gets off to a good start.
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Typical planting depth recommendations are 1.5 to 2.5 inches. However, optimal depth can be slightly adjusted based on soil type and moisture conditions. Corn should never be planted less than 1.5 inches deep, as this can lead to root development issues and increased susceptibility to herbicide and insect injury.
Deep planting can expose seed to cooler and wetter soils and delay emergence, thus leading to stand issues. Planting corn at a target depth of 2 inches is recommended because this ensures proper seed-to-soil contact and strong nodal root development.
Good seed-to-soil contact promotes uniform and rapid imbibition of water and leads to even emergence. Successful stand establishment is dependent on a good nodal root system. The first set of nodal roots are usually visible by the V2 leaf stage and are dominant by the V6 leaf stage.
The nodal roots are a vital structural component of the plant and are responsible for the majority of nutrient and water uptake. A well-developed nodal root system helps reduce early season lodging and rootless corn syndrome. Taking the time to fine tune your planting depth will help optimize your emergence and stand.
Best of luck this year!