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Producers take risks with early planting, but may reap benefits

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Kansas State University (KSU) Crop Production and Cropping System Specialist Ignacio Ciampitti joined Eric Atkinson and Jeff Wickman during an Agriculture Today podcast dated March 31 to discuss soil temperature and planting success.  

“I am pretty sure current soil temperatures are making producers elated and anxious,” Ciampitti says. “In some areas, temperatures are beginning to reach 55 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. In many situations, this is a magical number for producers.”  

Once temperatures reach 60 degrees and are constantly increasing, producers are able to plant crops early, Ciampitti notes.  

Considerations and risks 

Producers often have many decisions to make, including when to start planting. Ciampitti shares several considerations for producers making the decision on when to plant.  

According to Ciampitti, early planting presents increased risks of crops encountering stress. Various types of stress, such as cold and wet weather, can cause yield loss. Crops may also encounter difficulty emerging, making seeds and seedlings more vulnerable to insects and diseases.  

He recommends producers keep a close eye on the forecast if considering planting early, stating, “Specifically, when looking at the next few weeks, producers should see if temperatures are going to be consistently warm, thus offering a planting window for early crops.”  

Ciampitti adds, “If a cold spell is expected around planting time, producers should avoid planting for a few days to allow temperatures to rise so producers can get the maximum amount of crops. With soils planted early, producers should be aware of potential temperature swings, which may affect seeds and crops, especially if nighttime temperatures dip into the 40s.” 

Another consideration, he notes, is soil temperature two to four inches below the surface. Ciampitti recommends producers also monitor soil moisture and chance of precipitation, as moisture is a critical factor when planting early,  

Additionally, when producers choose seeds, they should look for seeds with higher stress emergence scores to help reduce the risks associated with cold temperature stress.  

“Cold weather fluctuations are a risk associated with early planting,” Ciampitti says. “If temperatures fluctuate, crops may be affected in the long-term.”  

Pros and cons 

While planting early has benefits, it also comes with a range of cons.  

“Planting dates are one of the most influential factors on crop establishment,” Ciampitti says. “Reduced establishment occurs most often when planting seeds in poor seedbeds, planting when soils are too wet or too cold and when a cold spell comes after planting.”  

If producers plant too early and temperatures drop, crops will definitely be affected, he notes. According to Ciampitti, when seeded crops get too cold, they fail to germinate. Additionally, seeds surviving freezes may produce irregular plants.  

However, a benefit of planting early is the opportunity for high-yielding, plentiful fields, as planting early extends the growing season.  

“Producers often get more growing days and yield by planting earlier in the season,” says Ciampitti. “This is only the case if the seeds are planted in a well-prepared field with warm temperatures and adequate moisture.” 

Madi Slaymaker is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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