Still Not Too Late to Plant Corn in the Carolinas

Corn planting in North Carolina is moving at a glacial pace, but NC State Extension Corn Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger says it’s not too late to plant corn:

“It has been a struggle, especially in the Piedmont, and statewide, but everyone is really waiting to get in the field. We have done a lot of work with corn planted even later in May and it doesn’t do as bad as you think. It does have good yield potential.”

So, if we’re planting corn late, is there any way to compensate? Heiniger says yes, there is:

“Our data suggests that one way to make up for a few less days in the sun is to put more plants out there so you have more leaf area to capture the light you do get. We do recommend that you increase the population as you get past the middle of May, by a few thousand per acre.”

Heiniger says some growers often shy away from higher populations, but planting late solves some of those high-population problems:

“Often times we worry about it getting too tall if we plant too many plants, but actually corn planted later like this, it usually doesn’t get that tall.”

There was one week in April where it was warm and dry, and corn planters were running wide open. Heiniger talks of the condition of the corn that has emerged:

“It looks like its trying to figure out if this was a good time to emerge or not. We are seeing quite a bit of yellowing and sulfur, especially in the coastal plains. We had a few warm days so the top of the plant gets some heat, but the roots are still in cool soil and as a result you are not picking up nutrients as fast as the plant would like.”

Heiniger says that if soil has been managed properly, he feels the corn will grow out of the yellow stage with warmer temperatures and some sun.

So, with that being said, Heiniger says he’s heard some talk about replacing corn acres with beans or sorghum:

“There have been producers thinking of replacing some acres with beans or sorghum, particularly if they are working in a rotation, but they need to consider if they would do beans behind beans.”

NC State Small Grain Specialist Dr. Ron Heiniger. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.