Spring Planting

Are you getting ready to do some spring cleaning or some post-winter yard work? Well farmers are, too!

With this year’s warm temperatures, we may start to see planting in southern Indiana in the next few weeks–earlier than normal. So what are farmers typically looking for to decide when to plant?

Soil temperature

For corn, soil temperatures normally need to be 50 degrees or higher before planting. Corn is kind of a Goldilocks-type plant that doesn’t like to be too cold or too hot. If the soil is below 50 degrees, the corn seed will start drinking in water, but it won’t germinate (or start growing) so it may start to rot and never germinate.

Soil moisture

April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes, but they can also delay planting. Spring rains can make fields muddy messes. If the field is too soft, a tractor driving on it would compact the soil, or smash the soil down. Compacted soil is not good for plants, so farmers don’t want to damage their soil by trying to drive a tractor on wet ground.

Type of crop

Like I said earlier, corn needs soil to be above 50 degrees, but soybeans need 54 degrees or high. Some plants, like wheat or oats, don’t mind colder soil temperatures. So the actual seeds being planted make  big difference on when the farmer can begin. Here in Indiana, most farmers grow corn and soybeans, so you’ll see corn planted first and then soybeans.

cow face with green grass 2014

And if you are wondering why we’re spending any time talking about crop farming on a dairy blog, many Indiana dairy farmers home-grow their own feed for their cows. Those who buy feed are typically buying from a neighbor or other local source, since Indiana is a great place both to dairy farm and to grow corn, soybeans, and other crops.

One big thing to keep in mind when planters hit the roads is to stay safe. Drive safely and pass equipment only when you have enough room to pass safely and with a reasonable speed. Farmers want you to get where you are going safely!