Every year agronomists and corn experts discuss the advantages of planting corn early. All corn producers are aware that if corn is not planted by early to mid-May, yield potential declines for each additional day planting is delayed. For the Central Corn Belt, the declines in yield potential due to planting delays vary from about 0.3% per day early in May to about 1% per day by the end of May (Nielsen, 2013). However, it is important to keep in mind, that early planting is just one of many factors that contribute to high yield potential. Planting early favors high yields, but it does not guarantee them.
Growers don’t have to look very far into the past for confirmation of this fact. According to data collected by the National Agricultural Statistics Service USDA/NASS, only 62% of the 2009 corn crop was planted by the week ending May 17th. Despite later planting dates, the national average yield for the 2009 crop was 164.4 bushels per acre. In 2012, 96% of the corn crop was in the ground as of the week ending May 20th. The crop was off to a great start, but thanks to the drought, the national average yield was only 123.1 bushels per acre in 2012. Although it is widely understood that planting date is an important management practice influencing corn yields, 2012 proved other factors can diminish the yield potential of an early planted crop.
Once the planters start rolling in 2015, it will be important to focus on all factors related to getting the crop off to the best possible start, no matter what the calendar says. The temptation will be to get everything done as quickly as possible. Making sure that soil conditions allow for field work, weather forecasts are favorable, and equipment is working properly will benefit the crop all season long. Taking all the necessary steps to get things right the first time will set the stage for a successful year.