Advanced Agrilytics

Six Planning Tips to Increase Corn Yield

Achieving high corn yields begins with a plan that sets you up for success. The better the strategy, the better your odds of maximizing productivity. So, what constitutes a good plan? “Think through all of the factors that need to be in the plan,” says Dan Emmert, a lead agronomist at Advanced Agrilytics. “And be aware of how all of these factors tie together. By thinking through the plan from start to finish, you may avoid
unintended negative consequences.”

To help you boost your average yield of corn per acre, let’s look at six crucial factors to consider as you prepare to build your plan for next year.

Understanding Your Environment: 

Start by evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each field you intend to plant with corn. Look over previous years of yield data, soil testing, scouting notes and any additional relevant information. What are your biggest risks? Nitrogen loss? Poor potassium levels? Drought-prone soils? How do you plan to eliminate or reduce those risks?

For example, Advanced Agrilytics research shows that the chances of achieving 200-bushel corn on water-limited acres are less than 50% if your soil test phosphorus levels are less than 25 parts per million. Take the time to find out if your field fertility awareness is accurate. “Let’s remember why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Emmert advises. “Take the time to pay attention to details now.”

Review Product Options Based on Environment: 
Rather than purchasing all of your hybrid corn seed and then trying to find a spot for each product, evaluate each field and choose a hybrid with strengths well suited to that environment and your management style. Does a hybrid have strong emergence, good staygreen and excellent early vigor? Does it gain its yield from kernel depth, or does it sacrifice kernels when stress occurs soon after pollination? A hybrid that aggressively allocates its sucrose stores (stored carbohydrates in the lower nodes of the corn stalk) to the ear is set up to fail in a field that you always harvest late. Those plants likely won’t have the stalk strength to stand until late harvest. A hybrid that needs to capitalize on kernel depth requires enough moisture to deliver your desired yield.
Consider Variable Rate Planting by Environment to Maximize Productivity: 

Variable rate seeding is another way to optimize product performance. A flat seeding rate across a whole field can result in drought-prone or poor-fertility areas being stressed from corn populations that are too high. Additionally, highly productive areas with good fertility and adequate moisture may be planted at populations so low that the ear cannot flex enough to maximize yield potential. By understanding anticipated moisture availability and fertility levels, you can capture yield potential with the right population by environment.

On water-limited acres, variable rate seeding reduces the number of seeds being planted, which reduces the risk of running out of moisture by giving plants more room
for each root mass and decreasing competition for moisture and nutrients. However, when we reduce populations without considering that those environments experience reduced nutrient availability and slowed crop growth, the hybrid is more likely to fail. Building soil phosphorus and potassium levels, ensuring adequate early season nitrogen to sustain canopy — even with a limited number of plants — can help ensure adequate nutrient uptake in these environments. Front-loading and building nutrient levels creates larger plants at V6 to help close the canopy, conserve moisture and store nutrients in the plant that can be reallocated later in the season.

Remember the Importance of Organic Matter: 

On well-drained soils with high organic matter, there is strong yield potential, season-long moisture availability and less potential for nitrogen loss. These are areas where you’ll push the highest seeding rates. Getting the population right provides the opportunity to capitalize on additional management practices. Be sure that the pH, phosphorus and potassium levels can support season-long nutrient needs and that the nitrogen program can ensure nitrogen needs. High-yield acres with inadequate fertility levels should be seeded at lower rates than high-yielding acres with strong fertility levels.

Evaluate Yield Per Thousand: 

Evaluate your yield per thousand seeds (YPT). If your current YPT is five (for example, 180 bu. per acre yield with a population of 36000; 180/36=5) or six, it may be unreasonable to expect increased yields by increasing population unless you address other factors first. If your present YPT is greater than eight, there is a good chance increasing seeding rates could boost yield.

Study Product Strengths and Weaknesses

Consider the hybrid’s strengths and weaknesses. Products with poor stalk or root ratings may achieve higher yields with increased populations, but also increase the risk of lodging. Some hybrids are known to have very good ear flex or may abort kernels aggressively at high populations; these products should not be planted as thick as products with fixed ears. “Not every field or every hybrid is going to have the same management plan,” Emmert says.

Tailor the Plan to Your Needs 

The key to a successful plan is not only including all the key factors but also being aware that they are interrelated, says Emmert. He also recommends fitting your plan to your resources. “Start by addressing what you can and figure out what’s holding you back and improve from there,” he says. Finally, he suggests consulting with an independent third party adviser who can take into consideration all of the interrelated variables that contribute to the success or failure of your plan.

Successful corn management requires understanding the environment. To boost your average yield of corn per acre, put a winning plan in place for the next growing season.