Optimize Yield Potential with Proper Plant Population

Categories: PLANNING, CORN
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    Agronomic stress wheel at the Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action site in Stanton, MN.

It's a common belief that increasing plant populations increases ears per acre, and consequently, escalates yield. This is true up to a point of diminishing returns. Take into account that each hybrid responds differently to population density, in combination with different soil types and levels of management.

To demonstrate the effects population can have on genetically different hybrids, here is an Agronomy in Action demonstration that features a stress wheel. As shown in the image pictured right, the trial is characterized by corn rows radiating around like spokes on a wheel with varying rowing spacings and plant densities. This agronomic “stress wheel” is a hand-planted plot of different hybrids at altered row spacing. The plant populations ranged from 28,000 to 50,000 kernels per acre. Planting hybrids at varying row spacing demonstrates how population can affect stalk quality, ear retention, lodging, roots and ultimately, yield.

It was clear from the stress wheel results that not all hybrids are created equal and vary in their ability to handle high populations. As population increased, some hybrids faced weakened stalk strength and standability. In general, yield increases resulting from higher plant populations are primarily due to more light interception by the denser crop canopy during grain-fill. But if corn plants become too crowded, the crop suffers from a smaller root systems, lack of nutrition, and ends up with poor stalks – and potentially less yield.

On the other hand, some hybrids respond well to higher planting populations. Ear flex hybrids are more stable at higher densities and work well with variable rate seeding technology. Such hybrids maintain better stalk strength while providing more ears per acre. Optimal hybrid performance is a process of fine-tuning the right seeding rate in combination with soil and fertility management.

Recommended population information is available for all Golden Harvest hybrids. When determining 2020 planting populations that are right for your fields and management style, contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

Photos are either the property of Syngenta or used under agreement.

Syngenta hereby disclaims liability for third-party websites.

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