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?
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.
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.
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:
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (866) 481-7333.