The importance of planting is inarguable in any farming operation– it is an essential undertaking to growing a crop. As spring approaches, farmers are eager to get their crops in the ground. However, they are also committed to selecting the appropriate timing, ensuring crop and soil health. How do farmers know when it is the right time to pack up their equipment and head the field?
There numerous management considerations that factor into this decision. Two of the main factors that are primary considerations in most instances are moisture and temperature.
It is common knowledge that water is essential to the survival and growth of any life form. This is no different for the seeds farmers plant in their fields. However, planting into soils that are too wet can hinder the seeds’ early growth. It also complicates farmers’ use of equipment as the damp soil balls up, clogs farm tools, and compacts under pressure.
A soil’s look and feel paired with a farmer’s seasoned experience is often all that is needed to evaluate moisture conditions for planting. Soil with a clay-like texture that easily forms into a ball is often too wet, whereas soil that crumbles in one’s hand is often at or near dry enough for planting.
Ideal planting temperature can vary some depending on the crop. However, a soil temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit is generally appropriate. Farmers also check weather forecasts to ensure that temperatures will continue to warm in the coming weeks as cold weather and frost will kill young plants.
Evaluate, Identify, Plant
Generally, conditions are suitable to begin planting in mid to late April in Illinois. However, there is no specific day that farmers start planting. Some years conditions are suitable in very early April. Other years, farmers may have to wait until early May. Selecting a successful start time for planting all depends on evaluating and identifying suitable conditions.