One pressing topic addressed during a recent John Deere seeding equipment preview event in North Dakota centered on the seeding window and importance of planting as soon as soil temperatures and moisture levels allow.

Seeding windows span from late March to mid-may depending on crop type and region, says John Deere senior agronomist Yancy Wright. He notes that penalties tend to be stiffer when planting after the window than before.

For wheat, there’s roughly a 1% decline in yield potential per day when planting after the window. For Canola, that figure jumps to 1.7% per day.

A key indicator for any window is soil temperature, particularly the minimum needed for germination. Benchmarks vary, but Wright says wheat needs to be at least 39 F while canola requires 41 F.   

Conducive to speeding up the soil warming process are seed openers designed for tillage and residue management, Wright adds.

“A little disturbance with the seed opener itself can allow for more soil warming. That way, we get in earlier than other solutions by moving residue out of the way,” Wright says. “One study on canola suggests that a 2-inch wide, residue-free strip around the seed zone can have up to a 12% impact in yield.”

While discussing planting dates on a snow-coated Tuesday afternoon with Lisbon, N.D. no-tiller and strip-tiller Doug Rotenberger, he’s had consistent success hitting his window for wheat the past five seasons between April 20-25, smoothly transitioning to corn and beans afterward.

The sturdier nature of the crop, he adds, provides more flexibility than corn or soybeans in the early stages of planting season.

“Wheat seems to slowly lose yield the longer you wait to put it in,” Rotenberger says. “Yet you can have frost 6 inches down and as long as you have nice a seedbed over top, you can get by planting wheat on top of it. It’s a hearty crop in that sense.”

In previous years with wetter springs, Rotenberger says the delicate nature of corn and soybeans has sparked difficult decisions on planting dates, notably if fertilizer was already applied in the fall and they wanted to capitalize on the effectiveness of nutrients.

“If we’re having a wet spring like this year and have all that money tied up in fertilizer, do you want to mud the corn in just to try and get it in early? Or are you going to be stuck planting corn on the first of June, knowing you’re going to have wet corn during fall harvest?”

Should the most recent snowfall be the last in Rotenberger’s region, those types of decisions for him and hundreds of other farmers will come with an improved clarity and confidence.

To see a No-Till Farmer article about Doug’s operation, please click here.