Imbibitional Chilling: Drastic change in water temperature during imbibition

Every year in Minnesota the haste of planting comes with the concern of cold and wet soil conditions. We seem to sit on the edge of our seats as we watch the rains come through that take the frost out of the ground. Quickly looking at our rain gauges to see how much rain the fields received. Then looking at the forecast to see if any weather is coming to dry the soil up so that we can get diggers and planters rolling as fast as possible. With this haste, decisions are made and those decisions mean everything when trying to raise a successful corn crop.

One decision that is starting to be commonly made is planting into 40 to 50 degree Fahrenheit soil temperatures that seem dry on the top two inches but under that there is still wet ground. With this; farmers face the risk of imbibitional chilling. Imbibitional chilling most commonly occurs within 24 to 48 hours after planting. What happens with this chilling is that the seed cells will rupture after taking in a cold drink of water. Resulting most commonly in delayed germination and slow emergence. Damage to the cell membranes can also result in death of the seed. To put it simply; Death or delay of the seed growth equals in death or poor growth of the plant which than equals less stand that in turn results in less yield potential. Less yield potential means less dollars made.

Planting in cold and wet soils is a controllable. The steps to take to avoid making a damaging decision is to go out and check soil temperature and moisture content. Optimum planting temperature is 54 degrees Fahrenheit before rolling planters into the field. The next step is use patience to set the seed bed up to grow a successful crop. Like I say: A corn plants most successful day is the day it is planted.