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Study suggests earlier crop plantings could curb future yields

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"There is very weak or little to no correlation with springtime temperatures over the majority of the Corn Belt and these [earlier] planting dates," Kucharik says. Rather, other factors- - such as improved land management practices and advances in biotechnology - have been far more instrumental in the decision to sow seeds earlier from year to year.

Farmers now have access to new types of seeds, for instance, that are engineered so that plants are more resistant to the colder soils of early spring. Another technologically enhanced corn seed comes with a polymer coating that only switches "on" when the soil reaches temperatures suitable for seed germination. As technology has continued to revolutionize agricultural methods, farmers have been increasingly confident to put seeds in the ground as soon as they possibly can.

But Kucharik says they should be careful, because nature's seasonal clock can only be manipulated so much. "If you start to shift a plant's development too early, it may start to get out of synch with the seasonal climate it is accustomed to," he says.

While earlier corn plantings have helped crops grow more plentiful over the years, Kucharik hopes the agricultural community will take note of the continuing trend so that future crop yields don't suddenly fall under the mark.


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Contact: Christopher Kucharik
kucharik@wisc.edu
608-263-1859
University of Wisconsin-Madison
4-Oct-2006


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