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Northern Illinois Agriculture

University of Illinois Extension
early planting dates illinois

Did I plant too early?

Did Northern Illinois farmers jump the gun? After several days of above average temperatures that allowed many to start planting,  the weather pattern has shifted dramatically. State climatologist Dr. Jim Angel has shared that in the near-future, the 6-10 and 8-14 day forecast indicate that colder-than-average conditions will prevail for the next two weeks. For precipitation, there is an increased chance of drier-than-average conditions in parts of northern Illinois for the next two weeks. The Illinois State Climatologist Outlook can be accessed at

What effect will this have on corn seed already in the ground? The soil temperature measured at the 4 inch level under bare soil at the  NIARC on April 19th was 54.5 degrees (information available on the the WARM site maintained by the Illinois Water Survey - We expect this number to decrease aided by projected night-time lows that will drop into the 30's this week. As such, with limited accumulation of growing degree units we expect little progress in the germination process. Temperature does not drive the imbibition process however. Normally a corn kernel will absorb approximately 30% of its weight in water. When soil temperatures are less than 55 degrees for extended periods, this absorbed cold water can cause damage to cell membranes, a process known as imbibitional chilling.

UPDATE, Dr. Emerson Nafziger provided his input on planting into cool soils in an April 22nd Bulletin post.  He shared that the imbibitional chilling is often linked to melting snow or very cold rainfall and has been a rarity in Illinois. Read Emerson's post in its entirety here

Farmers, as often is the case with weather issues, will have to wait and see. On an optimistic note, our earliest planted corn in recent years at the NIARC has successfully emerged after almost three weeks in the ground with little yield penalty compared to late April plantings.

RMA crop insurance earliest plant dates shared in Farmdoc Daily are above. Crops planted before the earliest planting date are not eligible for replant payments if those acres need to be replanted. As is the case with planting after the earliest planting date, good farming practices must be followed on acres planted before the earliest planting date. For acres planted before the earliest planting date, this may be a particular issue if the early planted acres result in a poor stand. If good farming practices dictate those acres should be replanted, those acres need to be replanted even though those acres will not receive replant payments. The Farmdoc article that addresses both planting before and after cut off dates can be accessed at

Prior to the weekend rain several projects were completed at the NIARC, including the second planting of the corn date of planting study and the oat variety trails.



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