Spring 2013 has been a chilly, damp contrast to 2012, when most corn was planted by May 1. The rain is welcome — the U.S. Department of Agriculture no longer considers Illinois abnormally dry, essentially signaling the drought’s end — but has spoiled plans of duplicating last year’s planting schedule.

However, there’s still plenty of time to reach your 2013 yield goals if you’ve delayed planting until mid-May or later. Keep these points in mind:

* Remain patient and make sure soils are in working condition — Tilling mostly wet fields can compact soil, leading to poor seed-to-soil contact, reduced stands, rootless corn syndrome and late-season stalk rots — all of which will reduce yields more than a slight planting delay;

* Consider crop insurance dates — Last year, we warned of planting too early. This year, keep the USDA crop insurance final corn planting date in mind if you’re not insured for late planting.

That’s May 31 for our seven southernmost Illinois counties — Union, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac — and June 5 for the rest of the state;

* Consider the calendar — Corn planted after May 1 requires fewer growing degree-days to reach black layer. This equates to a 6.8 GDD reduction for each day planting is delayed through May, meaning there is little need for growers to consider changing their hybrid selection because corn plants can help make up for the later planting dates.

For most full-season hybrids, planting can be delayed until June 1. After that date, risk increases of plants not maturing before frost;

* Work with your agronomist to reprioritize your schedule — Plant later-maturing hybrids first, followed by middle maturities and shorter-season maturities. This will minimize the risk of a killing fall frost. Discuss possible hybrid seed exchanges with your rep or dealer if corn isn’t planted by late May;

* Adjust planting population — Assuming a desired stand population of 30,000 plants per acre, adjust populations down by 2,000 to 3,000 seeds per acre for fuller season hybrids as favorable growing conditions will optimize emergence.

Plant as close to your final desired population as possible. This will strengthen stalks and roots, bracing plants for summer storms.

Bump populations up by about 2,000 to 3,000 seeds per acre for shorter-season hybrids to maximize yield potential;

* Do not plant shallower than planned — Plant for uniform emergence. In heavier, clay-based soils, plant at least 1 ½ inches deep. In sand-based soils, plant at least 2 inches deep.

Delaying emergence by one to two days is worth the tradeoff, given the added root support and added nutrient uptake from brace roots. Also maintain proper planting speeds; and

* Consider starter fertilizer — Supplementing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium with starter fertilizer helps your crop avoid stress, even when cooler temperatures significantly reduce soil microbial activity.

Purdue University recommends applying 20 to 40 pounds of starter fertilizer per acre — N, P2O5 and/or K2O — placing 2 inches to the side and 2 inches below the seed.

Coupled with near-normal conditions, starter fertilizer will help fuller-season hybrids grow quickly and catch up to shorter-season plants.

They say good things come to those who wait. We believe that will be especially true this year for corn growers.