It has been a wet April across parts of Illinois, and farmers are anxious about getting their crops planted. Recent history since 2000, shows that late planting does not always lead to lower yields. Take for instance last year, when planting did not start till the very end of April and we had record corn and soybean yields or 2008 when planting did not start till May. The key to high crop yield is selecting high yielding varieties, and planting them into a good seedbed with as near perfect seed to soil contact as possible.
Tilling the soil when it is too wet leads to soil compaction layers. One compaction layer at the depth of the tillage equipment, and the second layer is deeper in the soil profile where the soil moisture is at the field saturation level. Tilling in wet soil leads to poor seed bed conditions, cloddy soils, that result in poor crop emergence reduced plant populations. Lastly, Any compaction placed in the soil in the spring may lead to restricting root growth to the shallow layers of the soil. This could be a really problem if we experience any prolonged periods of dry weather during the summer. All this can lead to the potential for reduced yields.
Check your field soil moisture level before tilling. Not getting the tractor stuck in the middle of the field is not the way to determine whether the field is fit for tillage. Get a handful of soil and push it between your thumb and index finger. If the ribbon of soil breaks before 5 inches in length, then the soil is dry enough to be tilled.
Remember, putting your seed into a seedbed that insures excellent see to soil contact is the best way to get your crops off to a good start.