September 21, 2012

Evaluating Corn Populations for 2013

Coming off one of the driest and hottest seasons in history, there has been a lot of conversation around decreasing populations as we move into 2013. This conversation arose out of visuals that were seen as farmers across the Corn Belt walked their fields in 2012. Higher populations appeared to have spindly stalks with greatly reduced ear size. Then, when a lower population area was located within a field, the corn plants looked healthier and had larger ear size in comparison — presumably from reduced competition. It is fair to say that in an extremely poor yield environment, it is more economical to lower populations. However, notice the key words “extremely poor yield environment” in the previous sentence. All things considered, corn populations should be based on expectations and average yield potentials, not the outliers of a disastrous year.

Some of you have heard me say this before, “When you go into battle, you want to make sure that you have plenty of soldiers.” This phrase correlates perfectly to a medium and high yield environment on your farms. If population is not set for the appropriate expectations or yield environment and is too low, maximum yield potential does not even have the opportunity to succeed. Making sure there is an adequate number of corn plants is crucial to achieving realistic yield goals. Yes, ear size may be smaller at higher populations, but remember, you have many more “soldiers” to drive bushels into the combine.

No two fields are created equal, and you know your farm better than anyone. The “one size fits all” approach of population is fading quickly and it is to your benefit. With planters now outfitted with variable rate capability, you have the ability to make wise economical population decisions for every field.

sunset cornfield

In high yield environments, population can be increased to a higher level, and as the planter crosses the threshold into lower yielding environments, the population can be decreased. This can allow you to capture the added profit potential of a strong-yielding soil without overspending on inputs for lower yielding soils. Creating a population plan with current year expectations, yield environments, and product capabilities can place you on the right path for a successful 2013. Make sure to seek out the advice of your local Seedsman for population and placement recommendations of Channel products.​

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