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Wet spring: Long-term research drives planting recommendations

Extension agronomist Jeff Coulter

To say the 2011 planting season got off to a slow start is an understatement. Cold, wet weather kept farmers out of the field during Minnesota's prime corn-planting window: the last week of April and first week in May.

Roughly one-fifth of the state's 8 million acres of corn remained unplanted as of May 22, according to the USDA. Farmers worried about the effect on yield, and many considered switching to soybeans, which require a shorter growing season.

Still, the wet spring wasn't a Minnesota first and Extension agronomist Jeff Coulter was confident he could provide farmers with information that would help maximize their earnings. Coulter examined 23 years of research that showed impacts of planting dates and weather conditions on corn yield.

"We could put numbers to the risk from year-to-year variability in rainfall, temperature and pest pressure," Coulter says. "Our research could predict with precision on which date farmers should consider a switch to soybeans."

Extension experts statewide joined Coulter in interpreting this long-term data, which included teaching producers about earlier maturity hybrids, optimum planting dates and strategies for getting the most out of a late-planted crop. Extension agricultural business management experts also developed a tool that helps farmers determine on a case-by-case basis whether they should change their cropping plan.

"Everything is based on ROI [return on investment], and we're committed to helping growers make the right decisions in challenging times," says Coulter.

For more resources, visit Crops.

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