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Agronomist identifies economic plant population levels

By Staff | Mar 31, 2014

(PIONEER) – Whether corn prices are high or low, growers can maximize their income by selecting the optimum plant population for their acres.

With a new corn yield world record set at 454.98 bushels per acre in 2013, growers who plant elite hybrids understand the genetic yield potential is built into their seed.

Steve Butzen, DuPont Pioneer agronomy information manager, said the key decision at planting time is to put the right number of seeds in the ground to capitalize on each farm’s historic yield potential.

To identify population targets, Pioneer scientists evaluate corn plant population responses in research trials that span the Corn Belt.

Corn plant population studies test for complex interactions between genetics, environment and management .

Researchers target representative environments based on maturity zone, expected yield, specific stresses – drought, pest pressure, high residue, early planting – and other unique location characteristics that could result in repeatable hybrid and population responses.

In these studies, the seeding rate that generated the most income ranged from about 27,000 seeds per acre for locations yielding less than 130 bushels per acre to about 38,300 seeds per acre for locations yielding more than 250 bpa.

In the major corn-producing states of Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, well over 50 percent of acres are planted with more than 33,000 seeds per acre, generally due to more productive soils.

Pioneer agronomists recommend planting five percent more seeds than the target population to account for germination and seedling losses.

Growers also may want to boost target seeding rates by an additional five percent when planting in extreme environments like high-residue fields and cold, wet soils.

In areas with perennial drought stress, seeding rate targets are lower.

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