Boosting corn yields in 2023

By Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics, Seed Genetics Direct

Dave Nanda

Corn yields have been steadily rising every year. Can we continue boosting yields further? Yes, but to keep things in focus, use the ideas below to help boost corn yields in 2023

  1. 1. Set a realistic yield goal, but challenge yourself. Consider aiming to increase your yield by at least 10 bushels per acre more than the best yield you ever had. 
  2. Plant consistent performers. Don’t go whole hog on a hybrid you only hear about or see only once during the summer. Base hybrid selection on research and test data from multiple-years and multiple-locations in your area.
  3. Fine-tune your planter. There are excellent technologies available like precision planting for uniformemergence, depth control, uniform seed spacing and moisture sensors. However, you don’t need to be on the leading edge of technologies as long as you get each unit checked. 
  4. Apply nutrients to meet your goal. If you want 10 more bushels per acre, you have to apply additional amounts of fertilizers, too. Use starter fertilizer, especially if you are planting early and in no-till or minimum-tillage systems. 
  5. Reconsider split nitrogen application if you have gotten away from it. This is a proven method of reducing nitrogen loss and boosting yield. You can run out of nitrogen in a high yield environment. Symptoms of nitrogen deficiency show up in the top leaves when corn is in grain-fill period. Running out of nitrogen in the critical stage will cause yield loss.
  6. Obtain uniform emergence by preparing a good seed bed, planting in moisture, using seed firmers, planting hybrids with excellent seed vigor and cold tolerance, and using uniformly graded seeds. Also be sure to not to plant too shallow or too deep.
  7. Plant at least three hybrids of different maturities. Plant 70% full-season hybrids for your area, 20% medium and 10% early maturity. 
  8. Use foliar fungicides. There are no hybrids that are immune to all pathogens. Be proactive with plants if disease symptoms appear at flowering and are near the ear-leaf, the biggest leaf of the corn plant. You need to protect the ear-leaf and all the leaves above it.
  9. Increase plant populations. Consider planting 10% more seed than the desired populations. Observations over the years have shown that growers get 10 to 15% fewer plants at harvest than their planting population. It is not the number of seeds planted, but the number of plants with ears at harvest that determine yields.
  10. Spread the pollination period. Plant two hybrids in alternate strips that are few of days apart in their pollen shed timing. This practice will provide extra insurance in the event of unfavorable weather at pollination time. It can also boost yields by adding extra kernels. Try to use hybrid pairs of similar height to avoid shading by the taller hybrid.
  11. Plant early if you can. Early planting will maximize the use of solar energy and maximizes yield potential. There will be less stalk lodging, drier grain and higher test weight as compared to later plantings. However, certain soil types don’t dry early, so be patient. 
  12. Control weeds early. Small weeds do hurt yields. Light reflected from weeds affects the growth of the crop plants. Rotate chemicals if you can. Read the seed tags and make sure you are using the right herbicide for the corn traits.
  13. Harvest early to reduce chances of yield loss due to ear droppage, stalk lodging and ear rots. Check the stressed fields first. Do the stalk pinch or push test to decide which fields to harvest first to minimize harvest losses. To conduct the pinch test, grab the stalk between the lowest two internodes and pinch it between your fingers to see if the stalk is strong enough to handle the force. If the stalk collapses, it fails the pinch test. To conduct the push test, push the stalk to a 30-degree angle. If it pops back up when released, it passes the test. If 10% or more of the stalks (two out of 20 stalks) fail either test, prioritize those fields and harvest them first. 

Email Dave at daven@seedgeneticsdirect.com or call 317-910-9876.

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