Farmers To Plant Higher Populations Despite Drought

Surprising survey results show many think 30,000 plants was right for last year.

Published on: Apr 4, 2013

Following the drought, ask a farmer how many seeds he's going to drop per acre this year, and you may be surprised at the answer. One farmer said he will plant 37,000 seeds per acre, and won't change his strategy, even after a dry year in 2012.

The same trend showed up in a survey of all customers who attended winter seed meetings sponsored by Stewart Seeds. Agronomists collected information by providing each customer with a handheld polling device. They would post a question on a projection screen, and within 15 seconds, the tabulated answers would replace the question on the screen.

Brian Denning, an agronomist for Stewart Seeds who conducted some of the surveys, says he was surprised how many farmers thought more than 30,000 plants per acre was still the right population for last year. A sizable amount of their marketing area was hard hit by drought conditions.

Hold fast: Even 2012 didnt convince most farmers to drop back on population in corn.
Hold fast: Even 2012 didn't convince most farmers to drop back on population in corn.

Asked which population yielded best in a sub-100 bushel per acre environment in 2012, 4 of 10 still said 31,000, by far the most popular answer. Fewer than 3 in 10 said 28,000. The rest voted for something higher than 31,000, with some going as high as 37,000.

A good share of the farmers who answered these questions at the customer meetings were conservation farmers. A strong number said at least some of their acres would be in conservation tillage in 2013. Denning says no-till and conservation tillage tends to have a big footprint in their marketing area, particularly in the more southern counties in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky where many soils are well-suited to either no-till or conservation tillage.

There was no evident direct correlation between no-till acres and plant populations.