Corn School: Monitor soil temperatures to avoid imbibitional chilling


If you aren’t in the field yet, chances are you are itching to get out there and get the tires rolling. This is probably especially true if you are fearing early frost come harvest season.

Alana Serhan, market development specialist with PRIDE Seeds, says that before you even consider taking that corn seed out of the bag, you need to ensure the ground temperature is fit for planting.

But what does fit really mean?

It means farmers should ensure soil temperature is at 10 degrees Celsius, or corn seed could face imbibitional chilling, which occurs when a seed’s first “drink” of water is too cold.

“When that seedling imbibes in water, and takes in water, and starts its enzymatic germination process, if that first drink of water is too cool, there could be negative impacts that are essentially seen in the first growing portion of the season, that can result in a multitude of things further down the way,” explains Serhan in this Corn School episode.

Avoid imbibitional chilling by taking multiple soil temperature tests throughout the day. Serhan suggests taking one first thing in the morning, one at high noon, and one at night, to really see where your soil temperature is at. However, taking it at the right depth is crucial.

“For planting corn, we want to be around two inches, so that means we want to be taking our soil temperature at two inches,” she explains. “When we go into imbibitional chilling, and that cool first drink of water, that’s going to be those temperatures that are below five degrees Celsius, and even lower and cooler. We need that first drink of water to be warm.”

If that water that the corn seed is getting is too cold, the effects can be severe, delaying emergence and impacting root establishment. Soil and soil water temperature is most critical during that first 24 to 48 hours of that seed being in the ground. Beyond soil temp, be sure to check the forecast for cold rain right after planting, too.

Imbibitional chilling is very easy to spot, and as Serhan explains, you’ll notice a corkscrewing effect.

“That radical and seminal root package will get confused and start to loop around, whereas naturally those roots are supposed to fall down. That corkscrewing effect will go around and around, and all that time and energy spent below the surface, is essentially going to take all of that energy away from getting that plant up and going,” she notes.

Check out the full conversation between Alana Serhan and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below:

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Corn School (view all)Season 9 (2020) Episode 20

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