Many no-tillers could be thinking about planting crops, such as corn, early this year because of the unseasonably warm winter.

But factors such as crop-insurance requirements and weather events that can’t be forecast could affect the outcome of that decision.

Here are two articles from the University of Illinois and Penn State University that might give no-tillers some food for thought on this issue.

These articles are regional in nature and the requirements in your home state may be different. As always, we advise no-tillers to speak with their crop-insurance agent or other respected experts about these decisions.

— The Editors of No-Till Farmer

Impacts of Planting Before Crop Insurance Earliest-Planting Date

By Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois

Planting may occur earlier than normal this year due to unseasonably warm, dry weather.

Some of this planting may occur before the earliest planting date included in the COMBO policy, a crop insurance policy providing farm-level protection.

Those acres planted before the earliest planting dates are not eligible for replant payments. Insurance guarantees will exist for crops planted before the earliest planting date given that good farming practices are followed.

Earliest Planting Date

COMBO products – which include Yield Protection (YP), Revenue Protection with harvest price exclusion (RPwExcl), and Revenue Protection (RP) plans – have “earliest planting dates”.

For example, with corn in Illinois the earliest planting date is April 6, except for counties in the southern part of the state. Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, and Union county have an earliest planting date of April 1.

For soybeans, roughly the northern one-third counties have an earliest planting date of April 16. The southern two-thirds of counties have an earliest planting date of April 21.

The Outcome

Acres planted before the earliest planting date aren’t eligible for replant payments if those acres need to be replanted. These acres will still receive full coverage for yield or revenue losses if good management practices are followed.

For example, take RP with an 80% coverage level having an 170-bushel Trend-Adjusted Actual Production History (TA-APH) yield. With this year’s $5.68 projected price, the minimum guarantee is $772 (170 bushel TA-APH yield x $5.68 projected price x .80 coverage level). The $772-per-acre guarantee is in effect, whether acres are planted before or after the earliest planting date.

As 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.

Replant Payments

In most cases, the replant payment for corn will be $45.44 per acre for corn and $37.65 per acre for soybeans. The $45.44 corn replant payment equals 8 bushels times the 2012 projected price of $5.68 per bushel.

The $37.65 soybean replant payment equals 3 bushels times the 2012 projected price of $12.55. The 8-bushel corn and 3-bushel soybean factor remain the same across years. Projected prices vary by year, resulting in varying replant payments across years.

The $45.44 and $37.65 soybean payments are maximum payments. If a farm has APH yield below 40 bushels for corn or 15 bushels for soybeans, the replant payment will be the APH yield time 20% times the projected price.

Before replanting, a farmer should discuss replant with the crop insurance agent, assuring that requirements are met to receive replant payments.

Why Shouldn’t I Plant my Corn in March?

By Jeff Graybill, CCA/Agronomy Educator, Lancaster Co.

Last week many folks around the state were busy planting alfalfa — as they should have been. However, the question on everyone’s mind is should I be out planting corn?

Many folks will be sorely tempted to do so, but we need to consider the risks involved before we hook up the planter and go.

Personally, I have always been one to plant by soil and weather condition rather than by the calendar. This means that if the soil is approaching 50 degrees (at 2 inches depth), is sufficiently dry, and the 7-day forecast is for above-average temperatures, it’s time to get to work. As I write this article each of these conditions has already been met.

However, I plan to ignore my own advice and have no plans to plant my corn in March.

Under current conditions, corn could emerge quite rapidly — perhaps within 10 to 14 days. And we know that corn is also quite susceptible to frost. It’s time to remind ourselves that the average last frost here in Lancaster county is May 1 and generally later than this in much of the state.

Frost-damaged corn is not a pretty sight, and while the growing point remains viable and will slowly regrow, a hard frost will burn off the top, which can then trap the new growth inside resulting in twisting and very uneven regrowth.

If a hard frost occurs, the taller the corn, the greater the likelihood that you will need to destroy the stand and replant. The optimum planting date for most of southeastern and south-central Pennsylvania is the last week of April. The probability of realizing significant yield increases when planting in March or very early April is almost zero!

Unless you require 2 or more weeks to plant your total corn acres, planting very far ahead of the last week of April has few advantages, and the risks can be high!

In fact, very early-planted corn was some of the worst corn we saw last year. Not because of poor stands or frost (which is a high risk) but because it happened to pollinate during the hottest, pollen-killing weeks we had all summer.

This year the opposite could occur: we cannot know. Indeed, early planting can be a tool to spread out your pollination and other weather related risks, but so can choosing appropriate varieties and planting corn of several maturities.

Consider spreading out your pollination dates, which may be as important as your planting dates.

So, when should I begin planting?

You will have to answer this question yourself. Consider the factors listed above as well as your location (elevation and latitude) and personal experience.

Also don’t forget about your crop insurance, the earliest planting date for corn is April 11th, if you plant prior to that you may not be covered should you need to replant. If current weather patterns continue here in Southeast PA, I would reasonably expect planting to begin in earnest about April 11th.

In summary, I would urge you to spend some time calibrating and performing overlooked maintenance on your planter. But don't consider hitting the field until April rolls around, and probably not the first week either.