Without question, checking the soil temperatures is on the top of your list each day and are eagerly anticipating the first day of planting. When conditions are right, early season planting is a strong consideration for many growers. Our Crystal Decisions team recently discussed early season and mapped out the pros and cons of this approach.

Pros

Studies show that there are a number of benefits to planting early when conditions are ideal. For corn, data shows that it is generally ideal to have planting done by mid-May. In fact, “Each one-day delay in planting reduces yield by 0.5 percent from April 30 to May 20. From May 20 to 30, yield reductions increase on average to 1 percent per day. After May 30, yield reductions due to delayed planting average about 1.2 percent per day” (University of Minnesota Extension). And, for soybeans, planting after May 10 can lead to an increasing yield loss (University of Minnesota Extension).

Comparing early planting to late planting, “Yields are reduced less early in the planting season than late. planting early during the optimum window is generally a better practice than planting a few days after the optimum window” (Iowa State University Extension and Outreach).

Another benefit of early season planting is that, even if the extended forecast changes and you need to replant, you still will likely fall within the optimum window to avoid negatively impacting yields.

Our team has conducted a number of studies around ideal planting dates. Below are two examples that were discussed in this year’s Winter Conference:

  • 2019 Soybean Planting Date Study – In this trial, our team compared three different planting dates. Despite wintery weather just one day after planting beans in April, this field still performed better than those planted late spring and early summer.
  • 2017 Corn Planting Date Study – Comparing five planting dates and three hybrids, this study also indicated benefits to early planting compared to late.

Cons

While there is notable data supporting early season planting, there are some disadvantages to be mindful of. First, planting too early can impact your insurance coverage, which would directly impact your operation’s profitability. Additionally, planting too early in non-ideal conditions can lead to poor germination and seedling diseases (University of Minnesota Extension).

Summary

Across studies, there is substantial data supporting the early season planting. Once past the crop insurance dates, it is important to base your decision on when to begin planting on soil temperatures and conditions over set calendar dates in order to maximize the yield and profitability of your operation.