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Seeding Rate Management to Optimize Corn Yields

Categories: PLANNING, CORN
Determining the proper corn seeding rate based on field potential and hybrid characteristics is an important first step to maximizing yield potential.  
  • Hybrid seeding rate response data can help fine-tune seeding rate recommendations. 
Corn yield potential continues to increase yearly. It is easy to credit these gains entirely to new genetics and breeding efforts, however, changes in seeding rates have also played a critical role in yield gains. Average seeding rates have increased by over 24% in the last 30 years thanks to advances in corn hybrid stress tolerance achieved through breeding. 

 Since 1992, the Golden Harvest® Agronomy in Action team has conducted research that provides hybrid-specific guidance on corn seeding rates (Figure 2). Due to inherent differences in how hybrids respond to seeding rate (Figure 1), determining the best rate for a field or zones is a complex process with multiple factors that drive final calculations. 

Population Response Factors 
1. Yield environment 
Optimum corn seeding rate increases as overall field yield potential increases. Penalty associated with incorrect seeding rate selection increases with yield environments (Graph 1). 

2. Hybrid response 
Yield response to increasing or decreasing corn seeding rates differs considerably among hybrids (Figure 3). Starting one year prior to commercialization, Golden Harvest evaluates every hybrid’s seeding response to help fine-tune field recommendations by yield environments. 

3. Economic factors 
The optimum seeding rate for maximum economic return should be slightly lower than the highest yielding seeding rate. The rate will also go up or down with commodity prices. Increases in seed cost will reduce the economic optimum, although cost influences seeding rate much less than other factors. Table 1 compares several seeding rates and commodity prices in various yield environments. 

Calculating Optimum Seeding Rates
  1. Use Table 1 to estimate the optimum seeding rate for anticipated yield potential and grain pricing. When estimating yield environment, consider the proven historical yield of the field across multiple years. 
    • Example: A 200 bu/A yield environment and $4.00/bu grain price = 32,300 seeds/A optimum seeding rate. 
  2. Work with a local Golden Harvest Seed Advisor to adjust seeding rate up or down from optimum rate found in Table 1 for your specific hybrids based on Golden Harvest multi-site and multi-year seeding rate trial results.  
  3. Consider individual hybrid root and stalk strength scores to determine if the hybrid has suitable agronomic characteristics to support increased seeding rates. Lower scores indicate that the hybrid is more suitable for increased seeding rates. 
  4. For more insight, use the Corn Seeding Rate Selector tool to help estimate the most economical seeding rate for individual hybrids and yield environments.
Creating Variable Rate Prescriptions 
Most planters now offer a way to vary seeding rates in specific zones within a field. Many sources of data are available to help interpret zone productivity such as:  
  • Fertility 
  • Drainage 
  • Topography 
  • NDVI imagery 
  • Soil type 
  • Yield maps 
Multiple years of individual field yield data will best predict high and low yield zones. Using more than one year of data helps to better account for outlier years caused by drought or flood prone areas. When yield data isn’t available, soil productivity data can be useful in predicting areas of the field with different potential. Small increases and decreases in corn seeding rates with higher and lower yield zones will typically help maximize returns on investment potential, but always take individual hybrid characteristics into consideration.   

Tips for Developing a Field Prescription 
  • Multiple years of data will help identify more accurate field productivity zones. 
  • Highly variable fields will show greater responses to variable seeding rates. 
  • Creating validation areas with 3 or more seeding rates within the field can confirm prescription accuracy. 
Talk to your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor about utilizing E-Luminate®, a digital tool with a proprietary product placement algorithm, to assist you in calculating customized prescription seeding rates for your fields.   

Photos are either the property of Syngenta or used under agreement. 
Syngenta hereby disclaims liability for third-party websites. 

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