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University of Minnesota Extension

Planting date

Small grains are cool-season annuals and are most productive when they grow and develop during cool weather.

The crop’s yield potential is largely determined by the 6-leaf stage. Cool temperatures during this period are particularly important to develop high yield potential.

For example, the number of spikelets per spike is determined during the 4- to 5.5-leaf stage. Spikelet numbers negatively correlate with temperature; spikelet numbers are greater when temperatures during the 4- to 5.5-leaf stages are cool.

Benefits of early planting

Planting early is one way to improve the chances that these early growth stages occur during relatively cool temperatures. Plant as soon as it’s practical, but on or before the optimum date indicated in Table 1.

Table 1: Average optimum seeding dates and last recommended date for small grains

Minnesota North Dakota Optimum seeding date Last planting date
South of U.S. Highway 12 - First week of April First week of May
South of Minnesota Highway 210 South of Highway 13 and 21 Second week of April Second week of May
South of U.S. Highway 10 South of Interstate 94 Third week of April Third week of May
South of U.S. Highway 2 South of U.S. Highway 2 Fourth week of April Fourth week of May
South of Canadian border South of Canadian border First week of May First week of June

Research has shown that, on average, yields decreased 1 percent per day when planting is delayed past the optimum planting date. Planting after the last possible date is not recommended because the odds are greater for reduced grain yield and quality (test weight) due to heat stress.

Temperatures and germination


Jochum Wiersma, Extension agronomist; Joel Ransom, Extension agronomist and Vern Hofman, emeritus agricultural engineer, North Dakota State University

Reviewed in 2018

Page survey

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