Everybody Has A Bad Day

Everybody has a bad day from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

When you’re done reading this article, I want you to write this all down.  I’ll ask you to go into your fields first, of course, and it’s what you’ll learn that you’ll need to record.  Because it’s going to be important come harvest when we’re evaluating our year, but the truth of it can get fuzzy as the facts pile on throughout the season and we run the risk of blaming the wrong thing without this good info.

If you’re doing stand counts (and thus the NESP) diligently, you’re looking field by field, hybrid by hybrid.  And by now, you’ve likely seen some differences among how your various hybrids have performed so far.

Here’s where you need to go back into your fields, or at least back into your data: now that you’ve got a picture of how things are going, inspect that picture by planting date.

Oh, yes.  The good old planting date never fails to give us something to chew on.

I’ve gotten more than five phone calls lately in regards to one particular date: April 25.  This date seems to be sticking in everybody’s craw this season—the NESP for corn planted on this date is just plain low.

I’ll admit that my curiosity was piqued after even the first phone call, but after the second, and then the third, I had to know.  So I did what any good nerd would do and dug in.

There are some interesting correlations.

It seems that April 25 marked the beginning of a cooling period this year, a seven day stretch of clouds and rain that saw a 16 degree total drop in temperature.  Think about what happened to our bare soil during this stretch.  Think about what happened to the poor seeds.

Namely, cold water imbition and a chilling effect on newly germinated plants.

In the days before this period of cooling began (I used Apr 13-20 in my investigations), we were enjoying a nice spring warm-up.  The average ambient temperature averaged a 4.8 degree increase per day (in Elgin, which is where I based my investigations in honor of the source of that first phone call).  So planting seemed a go, until April 25 changed that.

Though the subsequent cooling period spanned quite a few days, seeds planted on the 25th likely suffered the most as they suffered the longest in cooling soil.

If you’re seeing yourself in this, don’t despair that you made a mistake however.  You probably didn’t have much of a choice if you did indeed plant on the 25th.  The soil was very fit on that particular day.

Rows of Corn Plants

Time will eventually tell us the whole story here.  While the NESP for a lot of corn planted on the 25th is comparatively low at the moment, we’ll need to wait to see what shakes out.  Perhaps corn planted later will suffer later if sidewall compaction issues become apparent.  Who knows?

Which is why you need to write this stuff down.  Tag your fields by planting date so that you can come back later as you evaluate your hybrids’ performances.  I’d hate to see you toss out a winning hybrid because it was unfortunately affected by what has proven to be a not-so-great planting date.  If it was just having a bad day the day you met it.  Because if a hybrid’s performance doesn’t match its resume, there is a why.  That’s Rule 39: There are no coincidences.

We can also use this info to learn a little about planting and our hybrids.  Maybe you got backed into a corner where you had to plant in low temperatures.  Maybe you backed into a corner where you had to plant into wetter-than-ideal soil.  If we can look back over our hybrid performance with such information, we can learn how to make the most of a raw deal when the season inevitably hands us one.