Getting the planting date correct is critical to getting high yields. “It’s like Uncle Si on Duck Dynasty says, ‘If you don’t pull the trigger on time, all you get is butt feathers,’ and that’s equally true with corn planting dates.”

“In 2012 most North Carolina growers planted early, and statewide we got good moisture through May. Then we got another window of opportunity from Mid-May until early June, and growers who planted in that time period also got good yields.

“Last year in North Carolina there was plenty of 150 bushel per acre corn that was planted the last week in May. In tests across the state, looking at double-crop corn planted in June, we also got yields better than 120 bushels per acre in many cases,” Heiniger says.

“Over the past four years in tests looking at planting dates from early April until June, at the James Research Center in Plymouth, N.C., our best yields came on corn planted on May 17. That date isn’t the best planting date for every corn grower in the state, but year in and year out, it’s a good bet — usually better than planting in late April and early May,” he adds.

“If we’re guessing when to plant corn, the best guess is around May 15, but we can do a lot better than guessing, if we look at weather patterns and use some science-based formulas for predicting what weather will be during the growing season.

“If we are in an El Niño weather pattern, which it looks like we will be in this spring, planting corn as early as possible is the best bet. As in the past few years, if we are in a La Niña weather pattern, then the mid-May or even later planting date is going to be better. So far things are shaping up this year for an early planting, but we will likely again have the second opportunity to plant in mid- to late-May, he says.

Last year Heiniger’s research team conducted a series of tests in which he compared a standard corn management system to an intensive management system, using fungicides, starter fertilizer, higher seeding rates, and some new seed treatment technologies in an effort to boost yields.