Well, do you want the good news or the bad news first? I’ll start with the good news.
The good news, it is still May and we have time to get our crops planted if we dry out soon with some warmer sunnier days. The second part of the good news is that the threat of frost should be over.
The bad news, is it appears forecasts continue to see cooler temperatures and near to above normal rainfall levels throughout the rest of May calling for a challenging time to get crops planted here and in many locations in SW Ohio and most of Western Ohio.
It appears we are now in a rapid shift from El Nino to La Nina. According to NOAA and their weather experts, the problem is when these rapid transitions occur, the skill of their climate models decreases. Saying that, it appears there are changes in the temperature and precipitation forecasts for May! Much different than what was thought in the weeks leading up until now.
Climatologists note that the dryness from April appears to have now shifted north into the Great Lakes allowing a boundary to sit over the Ohio region more often than not the next several weeks. Therefore, it appears May will likely now stay on the wetter side and impact planting that has not been done especially in southern and western areas of Ohio.
The most recent outlook through May 22 now calls for temperatures below normal and rainfall to above normal. The outlook from May 23 through May 31 looks like temperatures will finally start getting warmer but continued normal to above normal rainfall. Normal rainfall in May is about an inch a week.
Climatologists say that because of the shift to La Nina, the outlook for summer will be shifting to above normal temperatures and turn to drier weather. In fact, the likely scenario is that we will do a classic abrupt switch from damp to very warm and dry in very short order — somewhere between late May to late June is what they are predicting.
As of Sunday May 8, 30 percent of Ohio’s corn crop was planted, which is 14 percent behind last year and 5 percent behind the five-year average.
As prospects for a timely start to spring planting diminish, especially in northern Ohio (less than 5 percent of all crops planted), growers need to reassess their planting strategies and consider adjustments. Since delayed planting reduces the yield potential of corn, the foremost attention should be given to management practices that will expedite crop establishment.
The following are some suggestions provided by OSU Corn specialist, Peter Thomison, and guidelines to consider in dealing with a late planting season.
Although the penalty for late planting is important, care should be taken to avoid tillage and planting operations when soil is wet. Yield reductions resulting from “mudding the seed in” are usually much greater than those resulting from a slight planting delay. Yields may be reduced somewhat this year due to delayed planting, but effects of soil compaction can reduce yield for several years to come.
If you originally planned to apply nitrogen pre-plant, consider alternatives so that planting is not further delayed when favorable planting conditions occur. Although application of anhydrous N is usually recommended prior to April 15 in order to minimize potential injury to emerging corn, anhydrous N may be applied as close as a week before planting (unless hot, dry weather is predicted).
In late planting seasons associated with wet cool soil conditions, growers should consider side-dressing anhydrous N (or UAN liquid solutions) and applying a minimum of 30 lb/N broadcast or banded to stimulate early seedling growth. These approaches will allow greater time for planting. Similarly, crop requirements for P and K can often be met with starter applications placed in bands two inches to the side and two inches below the seed.
Thomison reminds that the longer our planting is delayed, the less beneficial a starter with P and K will be, because later planting dates typically have higher soil temperatures.
Keep time expended on tillage passes and other preparatory operations to a minimum. The above work will provide minimal benefits if it results in further planting delays. No-till offers the best option for planting on time this year. Most newer planters provide relatively good seed placement in “trashy” or crusted seedbeds.
Don’t worry about switching hybrid maturities unless planting is delayed to late May. If planting is possible before May 20, plant full season hybrids first to allow them to exploit the growing season more fully. Research in Ohio and other Corn Belt states generally indicates that earlier maturity hybrids lose less yield potential with late plantings than the later maturing, full season hybrids.
In delayed planting situations, use the optimal seeding rates for the yield potential of each field. Recommended seeding rates for early planting dates are often 5-10 percent higher than the desired harvest population because of the potential for greater seedling mortality. However, soil temperatures are usually warmer in late planted fields, and as a result germination and emergence should be more rapid and uniform.
So, as planting is delayed, seeding rates may be lowered (decreased to 3% higher than the desired harvest population) in anticipation of a higher percentage of seedlings emerging.
Tony Nye is the state coordinator for the Ohio State University Extension Small Farm Program and has been an OSU Extension Educator for agriculture and natural resources for 28 years, currently serving Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.