While the world seems to be at a standstill for most non-essential and office workers, spring planting season waits for no man. Farmers in the Four State took advantage of clear skies and warm weather last week as they prepared for the 2020 corn crop.
With many fields worked and planted in the last two weeks, Extension professionals and crop scouts are estimating corn to be between 50 and 80 percent planted in Kansas and Missouri. “It really just depends on what area you’re in,” said Shannon McClintock, MFA Crop-Trak regional sales manager. “In southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri, I know many places are 80 to 100 percent complete for corn planting, but there are also some areas closer to 60 to 70 percent.”
While conditions were good last week, some sudden spring cold snaps in the previous weeks had the potential to damage newly-planted corn.
“One of the concerns we’ve had with corn plants the last couple of weeks is the chilling process,” McClintock said. “That occurs when the corn is still drawing in water, and the water it comes into contact with is less than 40 degrees.”
Corn damaged through the chilling process can have some distinctive markers once the corn matures, like spiral shaped cobs, despite the fact that the damage occurred while the corn was still in the seed stage.
“Once a corn seed is planted it has 24 to 72 hours where it is pulling in water and if a little temperature drops while it's pulling in water, that’s where you risk that injury,” said James Coover, Wildcat Extension District crop production specialist. “Even if it did not get down below freezing in that time frame after the corn was planted, it could still have been cold enough to hurt that seed, so that’s something to look out for.”
Coover said producers worried about their corn planted directly before a cold spell could begin scouting their fields for cold damage in around 2 weeks, although cold damage to corn during the last few freezes is expected to be minimal.
“I don’t expect to see widespread chilling injury — I think it will be a regional problem,” McClintock said. “I do think if we see that corkscrew effect, it’s going to be in more isolated areas where there was a sort of micro-environment conducive to chilling injury.”
McClintock said some producers were fortunate enough to get some corn planted in early April, and that most of the corn planted in that window was germinated and sprouted before chilling injury was a risk factor. Corn planted in early April could potentially have slowed down on growth for a brief period during and after the cold weather, but he doesn’t expect any negative effects.
Most of the corn in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri was planted in late April — after the normal time period but also after a series of late frosts, a factor that potentially saved producers from more significant damage.
“We are definitely behind schedule based on historical plant dates,” Coover said. “Usually by the second or third week of April we're pretty much done planting corn and this year, we are just now starting to get above the majority, so we were probably two weeks delayed I would say from our normal planting date when it comes to corn.”
Planting in late April may not be the norm, but it is significantly better than conditions were during the 2019 corn-planting season.
“One thing we learned from last year is that we do have a little bit more flexibility in our growing season than we thought,” McClintock said. “We saw a lot of June planted corn last year that was successful.”
For producers continuing to put corn in the ground over the coming week, McClintock advised that keeping an eye on planting depth could help with overall crop quality later down the road.
“I know a lot of guys that plant at one inch thinking it will help get the crop up out of the ground quicker,” McClintock said. “It’s not about how fast you can get it out of the ground, it’s about how evenly you can get it out of the ground, so I recommend a consistent two-inch depth for planting.”
2020 has been a surprisingly good season for wheat, for the few farmers still in wheat production.
“We’re pretty far along when it comes to wheat, with most of it moving into the heading stages,” Coover said. “There have been some cold snaps but by and large everything had been fairly mild on the wheat front this year.”
As wheat enters into the heading stages in Kansas and Missouri, Coover suggested being on the lookout for rust.
“There are some reports out of Oklahoma and Texas where they have had the right conditions to develop some pretty serious rust issues,”Coover said. “That will be something to keep an eye on as it moves up from the south, but it looks like we could have a pretty heavy rust situation this year since the conditions have been conducive to it.”
A combination of wet and cool weather has been known to increase rust blowing up from the south and conditions have been right. McClintock found faint traces of rust when scouting a wheat field near Opolis just last week.
“Overall the wheat looks pretty good, especially if it’s been under careful management,” McClintock said. “If producers were able to get nitrogen applied at the right times, it looks even better.”