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Late Planting Impacts on Corn and Wheat Yields (05/09/19)

Conditions have not been favorable for planting crops this spring.

Conditions have not been favorable for planting crops this spring. In the most recent USDA-NASS Crop Progress report, only 13 percent of the spring wheat acreage in North Dakota had been planted, behind 18 percent last year and well behind the average of 37 percent. In the case of corn, only 3 percent of the corn acreage had been planted, which is similar to last year but well behind the average of 23 percent.

Late planting usually means lower yields. The optimum planting dates for wheat is between the 2nd week in April to the 1st week in May depending on region of the state. The optimum planting date for corn across all regions of the state is the first two weeks of May. Most yield charts suggest there will be a 1% reduction in yield for every day delay in planting beyond the optimum planting range. Planting date can be an important determinant of yield and every effort should be made to plant both crops as early as is practical this spring. Nevertheless, crop yields are ultimately determined by a multitude of environmental, biological and management factors thus making it difficult to predict yield based on planting date alone.

In fact, when we look across the state the past 11 years there has been little relationship between the date when 50% of the spring wheat acreage was planted and yield at the end of the season. Last year was a good example of this poor relationship; 48 percent of spring wheat was planted after May 14 (5th latest), yet the state harvested the greatest yield on record (49 bu per acre). The relationship between the date when 50% of the corn was planted and statewide yield has been somewhat more predictive for corn. Never the less, last year was the second highest yielding year for corn, even though planted acres did not reach >50% until after May 21. This means that even with our current delays in planting crops this spring, there is still potential for high yield and crops should be managed accordingly.

Establishing a uniform stand is a critical practice in developing a foundation for high yield. This is particularly true of corn. Therefore, it is still important to balance getting the crop planted with establishing an adequate stand with good uniformity. Pre-plant tillage when soils are too wet may result in a poor seed bed. Similarly, planting when conditions are too wet may result in sidewall compaction that will impact establishment and later growth and development.

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Joel Ransom

Extension Agronomist for Cereal Crops

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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