Planting season is upon us, and it is important for growers to brush up on early-season growth in corn. The first step is to get good germination.

In order for corn seeds to germinate successfully, there are three basic requirements: optimum temperature, adequate moisture and sufficient oxygen. Variations in temperature and moisture can create uneven timing of germination as well as uneven emergence.

The seed provides energy for the plant for the first few weeks of life and absorbs about 30 percent of its own weight in moisture during the germination process.

Enzymes also play a key role during this time. These enzymes convert sugars, starches and proteins into structural materials for the small growing plant.

The minimum soil temperature for these enzymes and for germination is 50 degrees, making optimum temperatures a must.

If all the basic requirements are met, the first structure to emerge from the seed is the radicle or root, followed by the coleoptile. The coleoptile is a sheath that helps protect the first leaves.

Next, the seminal roots will grow directly from the seed. A special stem called the mesocotyl pushes the coleoptile upward.

Near the soil surface, exposure to light causes the mesocotyl and coleoptile elongation to cease. The coleoptile ruptures, and the first leaves of the corn seedling emerge.

The mesocotyl not only helps move the coleoptile upward, but is the structure that allows water and nutrient movement from the seed to the vegetative structures.

Damage to either the seed or the mesocotyl can reduce the survival of the seedling. This structure should remain firm, white and healthy for several weeks after emergence.

For corn to successfully germinate, the plants need optimum temperatures, adequate moisture and sufficient oxygen. Once germination has occurred, a healthy seed, primary root system and mesocotyl are absolutely essential to drive early-season development.