When I ask veteran no-tillers what advice they have for others, the No. 1 tip I hear is “patience.” Patience in regards to the long-term benefits of no-till and soil changes to expect, but also when it comes to planting.

According to the crop progress report released by the USDA on Monday, an average 7% of corn has been planted in the top 18 corn-producing states. And while your conventional neighbors may already be getting in the fields, it’s important to remember that it’s not the date on the calendar, but the environmental conditions that will give you the green light to start planting.

Two important considerations to keep in mind before the planter starts rolling:

  1. Check soil moisture. If soil moisture content is near field capacity and the soil molds easily in your hand, it’s probably too wet for planting, says Purdue University Extension.
  2. Check soil temperature. Penn State Extension recommends measuring soil temperature at corn planting depth — around 1½-2 inches. If the early morning low is above 50 F, then you may consider planting, but first check the forecast to ensure temperatures will hold for 3-5 days.

Of course, sometimes Mother Nature can be uncooperative and you may find yourself having to plant in suboptimal conditions if it gets too late in the season.

In that case, Penn State Extension recommends switching out rubber or cast-iron closing wheels for spiked, rippled or posi-close closing wheels, to avoid packing the soil on top of the seed in wet soils. If you’re using a no-till coulter, opt for a 13-wave or turbo model, as the bubble coulter will likely cause sidewall compaction. 

Purdue University Extension also suggests using a seed firmer in wet conditions to achieve the necessary seed-to-soil contact.

If dry conditions are the issue and you don’t have a lot of residue on the surface, University of Nebraska Extension engineer Paul Jasa recommends planting corn around 3 inches deep to reduce the chances of the seed zone drying out.