Corn Concepts: Planting progress, germination, and emergence Back »

Are you concerned about the late start of the corn planting season this spring and wondering where we are at in comparison to previous years?  This week’s “Corn Concept” is to get each corn plant off to the same start.

The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistical Service data shows that South Dakota’s planting progress by the first week of May from 2005-2012 has been about 25%. However, the range has been as low as 2% in 2011 to as high as 57% in 2012 (USDA-NASS, 2013). It appears planting progress will be starting a little later this spring. However, South Dakota planting progress by the first week in May is not predictive of a lower state average corn yield (Figure 1). South Dakota farmers have demonstrated that they can plant a significant amount of acres from early- to mid-May. For example, 71% of corn acres were planted between the May 1 and May 22 planting progress reports in 2011.

Figure 1. South Dakota corn planting progress by the first week of May and final corn yield.


The minimum temperature for corn germination is about 48 to 50° F, though emergence will likely be very slow and uneven. However, soil temperatures of 55° F and above will result in emergence within 12 days or less (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Days from planting at 1.5 inches deep to 10% emergence of corn seedlings at various temperatures.

Source: Egli and Rucker, 2012.

Low vigor seed, cold and uneven soil temperature and moisture, and non-uniform planting depth favor unevenness of emergence. Corn seedlings that emergence later than their neighbor can lead to yield loss depending on how delayed emergence is between the two seedlings, plant population, and weather conditions during the year. However, research found that significant yield reductions do occur when neighboring seedlings emergence 7 days or more later (Ford and Hicks, 1992). Corn yield has been found to be more negatively affected by uneven emergence than by within-row plant spacing variation (Liu et al., 2004).

In summary, we should be less concerned about the start of the corn planting season and focused more on planting when the conditions are suitable to support a uniformly emerging corn crop.


  • Egli, D.B., and M. Rucker. 2012. Seed vigor and the uniformity of emergence of corn seedlings. Crop Sci. 52:2771-2782.
  • Ford, J.H., and D.R. Hicks. 1992. Corn growth and yield in uneven emerging stands. J. Prod. Agric. 5:185-188.
  • Liu, W., M. Tollenaar, G. Stewart, and W. Deen. 2004. Response to corn grain yield to spatial and temporal variability in emergence. Crop Sci. 44:847-854.
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