One of the guys I interviewed mid-April asked me what I thought about early-spring planting. He had heard reports of people in his county planting corn in March and wanted to know what I thought.

That can be a dangerous question to answer, so the first thing I did was cover myself. I told him it’s a personal decision and everybody has his or her judgment of when it’s time.

And then I told him what I thought, which is basically that up until recently, the corn and soybean seed is probably better off in the bag, versus having to wonder if it will even sprout or be damaged or delayed when it does.

The past week here in northeastern Ohio, we saw nighttime lows in the lower 30s. Not much grows when it gets that cold. And further east into Pennsylvania they actually had snow — several inches in some places.

I was told some corn in Pennsylvania sprouted about three weeks after it was planted, only to be burned back to the ground by the freezing temperatures.

I guess I can see why some farmers planted in March — I mean we had 70s and 80s for several days and it really made a person wonder, after a mild winter, if we were safe.

And, when you consider what we had last spring — a record wet season — I think some guys are itching to get off to a good start, even if it’s early.

Costly replanting

But you’ve also got to think about the cost to replant, if the first planting doesn’t work — and that’s never a cheap fix. I remember as a boy when some of the farmers close to my family’s farm tried planting in March, and they ended up replanting a second and a third time.

I think they thought they were going to get ahead and got excited. But nature had other plans and they ended up worse than if they had just waited.

The universities put out a lot of recommendations this time of year, about when and how to plant, and what to do and not do. Sometimes I wonder how much attention farmers really give to these recommendations.

Balancing act

I see them as useful guides, but only as guides. In the end, it all comes down to the individual farm and what the situation there is, and what the farmer feels is best.

In a perfectly managed environment, you could plant your seeds at the specified time, the specified depth and in the specified soil conditions and everything would grow wonderfully.

The reality is nature is unpredictable and the paper-science and the field-science can sometimes differ.

But you can’t neglect the science, and I wonder if some of the guys who planted in March weren’t using imaginative science, or fingers-crossed science.

I guess time will tell.

Like I told the guy who asked me, it’s a personal decision and you have to make it yourself. Farmers sometimes like to keep tabs on each other and who has done what — and when — but it’s really the business of the farm as to when the time is right. It’s their gain or loss, depending on how it goes.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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