The last weekend in April provided the first opportunity for many Kentucky farmers to plant corn this season.
To make up for lost time, some may be tempted to plant in less-than-ideal conditions, but waiting for better weather could help maintain yields, said Chad Lee, grain crops Extension specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
"Mudding in corn creates compaction, which causes limited growth potential and limited nutrient intake and results in yield losses far worse than waiting two or three days to plant corn under better weather conditions," he said. "The challenge is being patient enough to wait on those extra days of dry weather, while knowing you have a lot of acres that need to get planted."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin as of April 19, only 4 percent of Kentucky's corn crop was planted. This is well below the 5-year average of 37 percent.
In a normal year, the state's corn crop is planted by May 15 to maintain average yield potential, but weather does not always cooperate. Typically, most farmers in western Kentucky begin planting during the first week of April, but wet conditions and cool soil temperatures kept them out of the field this year. Some still need to apply fertilizer and complete other fieldwork before beginning planting.
Corn planted in the first part of May has an average yield decrease of 1 bushel per acre per day, and corn planted in the latter part of May has an average yield decrease of 2 bushels per acre per day. Planting dates are important and do influence yields, but are only one factor used in determining yields. Other factors, such as weather and soil conditions, influence yields too and in some cases, have a greater impact on yields than planting dates.
While planting progress is far below 5-year averages, this is not the first time in recent years producers planted corn late. In 2008, flooding slowed planting progress across the state, but due to rain in July and August, some of the highest yielding corn in the state was corn planted after May 1. Therefore, even late-planted corn has the potential for good yields.