Some growers may have chosen to ignore cold, wet weather this spring and plant by the calendar. But McCutchenville, Ohio, no-tiller Bret Margraf wasn’t among them.

He was sticking by the mantra many no-tillers follow — patience. When I visited his farm on May 6, he admitted he didn’t have a single bag of seed on his farm yet.

“And I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I couldn't care less about the calendar date. What’s the use in running out here if the plants aren’t going to come up?”

Instead, Margraf looks to biological indicators to determine when it’s time to start planting — particularly his cover crop of winter peas.

“When those peas bolt, then it’s time to plant because all of the conditions are right,” he explains. “We’ve got enough sun, we’ve got the right moisture, we’ve got the right heat. But right now they haven’t bolted.”

His goal is to have the corn crop emerge in 5 days, and if the corn is up in that time, it’s off to the right start.

“I don’t care if it’s June 5th,” Margraf says. “If I’m planting June 5 and the corn comes out of the ground, I can still make a decent crop. It’s just patience.”

If you’re not as patient as Margraf, the good news is you’ve probably already experienced the conditions you’ve been waiting for. Planting progress doesn’t appear to be too far off track, with the USDA reporting that 73% of corn planting was completed in 18 states as of May 18 — just under the 76% 5-year average.

Corn emergence across the 18 states remains behind the 5-year, 42% average at 34% as of Sunday, the USDA says. Soybean planting was behind average, with 33% completed compared to 38%. However, 9% of soybeans have emerged, just under the 11% average of the past 5 years.

What’s been your biggest challenge this season no-tilling your crops with the cool and wet spring? Send me an e-mail and let me know. We’ll do our best to provide you the information to help you succeed this growing season.

Laura Allen,
Associate Editor
No-Till Farmer