|By SUSAN BLOWER
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mike Cox hasn’t been in the field for two weeks, and he’s concerned.
The corn he planted just before the rain hit may or may not sprout, and he’s considering replanting those 100 acres.
“The corn that’s spiked, it’s okay. The corn I planted (last) Tuesday and Wednesday before the rain – that corn – I will probably have to replant. We’ll do a population count. If we get 18,000-20,000 stand per acre, I would not replant,” Cox said of his Henry County farm in East Central Indiana.
Cox said the combination of heavy rain and 40-degree temperatures during the past few weeks has compacted the ground, making it difficult for his new corn to emerge.
This is a familiar story among farmers throughout Indiana, which has been pelted by a wet, cold and unpredictable spring.
Another factor is the rain forecasted yet this week. Rain is expected just as the fields are drying out.
“If it’s not dry enough till mid-June, I’ll just have to (leave the field as is),” Cox said.
Cox and many others in his situation are hoping for sunny skies.
Corn sprouts across the state have turned from a healthy green to a pathetic yellow, creating understandable stress in the Corn Belt, said Bob Nielsen, an agronomist at Purdue University.
Farmers are faced with the important business decision about whether to replant a damaged field. To help them with this process, Neilsen has created a worksheet called Estimating Yield and Dollar Returns from Corn Replanting.
“I think my experience over the years is that a lot of fields were replanted and it wasn’t economic to do so. Folks don’t give enough credit to the plant for its ability to recover from what appears to be real damage,” Nielsen said.
“It’s hard to have patience, but quite often it’s in their best interest to do so,” he added.
Nielsen said that in the next week, with clouds on the radar and water in the fields, farmers may have no choice but to wait and see.
Corn producers might be able to use the time to work through Nielsen’s seven-page worksheet. The longest part of the process, Nielsen said, is gathering data to fill in the blanks, based on records and walking the field.
“Once the numbers are in hand, it may take only 15-30 minutes to do,” he said.
The results of the worksheet will take estimates of yields if the fields are left alone and compare them to potential yields if fields are replanted. In addition, the economics of replanting are examined.
Nielsen said the benefits the worksheet provides make it worth the time it takes to complete.
“Taking time to work through the steps of the replanting worksheet will help clarify the economic returns, or losses, to replanting and reduce the influence of emotions in this important crop management decision,” he said.
According to recent USDA estimates, 77 percent of Indiana’s corn crop has been planted. That is relatively unchanged from the week before, due to weather conditions.
The unplanted acreage is getting a late start, as well as any replanted field, raising the question of what kind of seed to use.
“More farmers are willing to consider shorter-season hybrids as we get closer to the first of June and the danger of fall frost on an immature crop,” Nielsen said.
They will have to weigh the benefits of a hybrid against the possibility of a lower yield produced by that hybrid. However, Nielsen said research has shown that using a hybrid may be beneficial for delayed planting.
“The bottom line from this research is that a given hybrid maturity can be planted later than we once thought possible and still mature safely before a killing fall frost,” Nielsen said.
Replanting is not an easy decision, and either way, the corn’s fate is as cloudy as the forecast. For those plants that have already emerged, the combination of cold and rain has stressed the stand.
For those that have not emerged, the weather may impact germination.
“Another week of this stress will wear down the crop and hurt its ability to face future stress. We need a quick return to warm and sunny (weather),” Nielsen said.
The good news, Nielsen said, is that the forced wait on the weather will give farmers plenty of time to make a good decision on replanting.
“We will have a better idea of how the field is in another week,” he said.
This farm news was published in the May 24, 2006 issue of Farm World.