Getting Best Corn Yields by Maximizing Ears per Acre

When it comes to corn yields - DuPont Pioneer Agronomy Research Manager Scott Nelson says ears per acre, kernels per ear and kernel weight are the key components. Of those - he says ears per acre have the most impact on total yields. He says growers should try to achieve the maximum number of ears per acre that their soil and growing environment allow. The best way to do that - Nelson says - is to have high enough plant populations to take advantage of favorable growing conditions. DuPont Pioneer notes genetic improvement of corn hybrids for superior stress tolerance has contributed to increased yields by allowing hybrids to be planted at higher plant populations. In the high-stress growing seasons - corn plants still produce ears - though they may be somewhat smaller. In favorable weather - higher plant populations produce more ears and higher yields.

Studies conducted by Pioneer across 165 environments in 17 states and three Canadian provinces resulted in a four to eight-percent difference in planting rate recommendations. The optimum planting rates ranged from 32-thousand to 33-thousand seeds per acres for hybrids with over 100-day Comparative Relative Maturity. The studies showed earlier-maturing hybrids were most profitable at 34,700 seeds per acre. Dropping to 30-thousand seeds - according to Nelson - limits potential - essentially putting a ceiling on yields. He says higher plant populations offer the potential of the best yields and highest profits if the soil is fertile and the growing environment is favorable.

But growers should also take care not to plant more seed than they need to avoid risks such as lodging. When weighing plant population options - Nelson says growers may want to consider varying planting rates based on field and hybrid. He adds that while it seems logical to plant more seeds on the best soil - there are exceptions. Nelson says some lower-yielding soils may need more seeds per acre to get enough leaf area to lift yields. He says hybrids differ in their response to plant populations and some may not respond to higher populations - even on the best soils. Pioneer continues research to find the optimal plant density levels for all hybrids under all environments.

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