February 28, 2018 | By: | Ole & Sven

Increasing Corn Populations? 5 Tips to Make You More Successful.

Corn Population_Harvest

Thinking about adjusting your corn populations this year? Searching for the corn population ‘sweet spot’ is something I’ve worked towards over the past 13 years in my Ole & Sven plots here at Peterson Farms Seed. With all of that data, we have learned a thing or two that could help you on your farm. (learn more about Ole & Sven plots here)

The increasing use of planters with hydraulic drives has made it easier to conduct more population strips in the field versus stopping to change drive sprockets. But what else should you be considering when considering higher populations?

My top 5 observations

1- Don’t sell your field short.

We’ve really seen this the last couple of years with our above average yields. We produce about 5.5-6 bushels per 1,000 plants on every acre in our region. So, by increasing your planting rate by 2,000 plants, your productivity could increase by 11 bu/A. At $3.30/bu, that’s a potential $36.30/acre for a $6.25/acre ($250 bag / 80,000 x 2,000) investment in planting cost. If drought or flooding occurs, yields would be lost regardless if you had 34k plants or 30k plants per acre.


2- When upping your population, remember, those extra plants need to be fed.

Increased Nitrogen is a must with extra plants but also important are Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, and Zinc. These may have not been limiting nutrients when you were planting 28-30k plants but with a higher population you could be deficient.


3- Adjust corn populations based on soil productivity.

Ole & Sven plot data has shown a maximum return of around 32,000 plants per acre. This is a long-term study done on a nice loam soil, so results on your farm could vary. Population is soil specific to a point, so a blanket recommendation of 32,000 plants/A will not apply to everyone.

A few notes on this topic:

  • I really like variable rate seeding and I think it is the easiest form of VR farming you can do on your farm. There are some easy ways to create management zones on your own or other ag professionals can help you do this for a minimal charge.
  • I caution on only using soil-type maps. The SSURGO maps commonly used in computer programs were never meant for precision ag and rarely line up with yield data or imagery.
  • Properly adjusting your population based on the soil’s productivity really makes your operation more efficient.

Ole & Sven Corn Population Data 2005-2017

4- When pushing populations, make sure you know your hybrids and their characteristics.

Most of the current hybrids on the market today have good stalk and root strength. There are some that have super high yield potential but do need to be managed to maximize those yields. These types of hybrids will work in a high population situation but may need to be harvested in a timely manner. We learned more of these types of lessons last year with the weekly high winds we received (thanks, North Dakota).


5- Bottom line: Raising your corn populations is more than just adding additional kernels to the soil.

To be successful you need to make a plan and adjust your resources to meet the needs of the additional plants.

Stay tuned for ongoing insights from our Ole & Sven test plots over the coming weeks. If you’ve got questions about your corn populations or what products would be a good fit on your farm, drop us a line at or give us a call at (866) 481-7333.

Adam Spelhaug, Agronomy Lead CCA

Adam Spelhaug

As the agronomy manager, Adam Spelhaug works diligently to determine the best genetics for our region, bringing growers what they need in their fields. Adam has been making his mark on Peterson Farms Seed since 2005. When he’s not discovering genetic breakthroughs, Adam can be found spending time with his family, golfing or bowhunting. He’s a North Dakota State University alumnus, and he’s proud of it. Don’t take any UND green into his office.

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