Take Note of Soil Temperature

April 22, 2009
ICM News

by Elwynn Taylor, Department of Agronomy

Soil temperature is important in all seasons, but especially so in the spring as crop emergence takes center stage. Corn seed planted in soil at 50 degrees F requires about 21days to emerge.  Only seven days elapse from planting to emergence when the soil temperature is 70 degrees. 

Insects, earthworms, weeds and the micro-organisms that influence the fate of nitrogen in our fields are directly impacted by soil temperature. Central Iowa soil temperature in late April is normally 47 to 62 degrees; the long term average is 57 degrees F.  The cooling of soils in the third week of April this year appears to be of brief duration and will not likely result in serious setbacks or direct damage to seed already in the soil. Current soil temperatures, for the past three days, is available by county at http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/NPKnowledge/

germination chart


Risk oriented? 

Want to know what the chance is that soil temperatures will be 50 degrees F or less on Oct. 24? (In Ames, it is 100 percent.)  Wondering what's the chance of soil temperature falling below 50 degrees F on May 5? (In Ames, it is 29 percent or about one year in five.)  Use Risk Tables available through the Department of Agronomy to calculate soil temperature risks for your area.


Elwynn Taylor is a professor of agronomy with research and extension responsibilities in climatology. He can be reached by email at setaylor@iastate.edu or by phone at (515) 294-7839.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Integrated Crop Management News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 22, 2009. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.