Farmers Pushing Ahead With Higher Corn Seeding Rates

CORN ILLUSTRATED: No one waiting for researchers to say it's OK to go higher.

Published on: Jan 21, 2014

Bolstered by strong yields where they planted relatively high populations in 2013, a survey of Indiana Prairie Farmer Master farmers shows they're not going to be bashful about pushing up seeding rates again on corn.

Out of 70 respondents, two-thirds say they will aim for 32,000 to 36,000 seeds per acre. At the same time, no one is looking at 24,000 to 28,000 kernels. To be fair, they were asked to give their intended rates for good soil. No doubt the answers would have been different if they were asked how high they would push rates on sandy or low cation- exchange capacity soils.

About 14% will be comfortable in the 28,000 to 32,000 range. Far more, one in five, will push into the 36,000 to 40,000 range. No one intended to aim for seeding rates above 40,000 seeds per acre.

The goal? Good ears:  Many farmers saw lots of ears like this when corn reached black layer in 2013. While no one knows for sure, it may have influenced them to bump seeding rates for 2014.
The goal? Good ears: Many farmers saw lots of ears like this when corn reached black layer in 2013. While no one knows for sure, it may have influenced them to bump seeding rates for 2014.

That means 86%, or almost 9 out of 10, will go no lower than 32,000 seeds per acre when they set their corn seeding rates for good soil this spring.

Related: The Most Popular Variable Rate Applications on the Farm

Some universities are still talking about backing off rates above 30,000 to 32,000. Seed companies are sometimes hedging their bets by suggesting different rates for different hybrids. The fact is, insiders say, some hybrids can handle the stress of higher rates, while others can't handle it so well, even in a good year.

Obviously farmers are stepping outside the box on this one. They saw in 2013 that if there were more ears per acre, there were more bushels per acre. Apparently they're willing to take the weather risk and plant on the high side, in hopes of another good year.

Another factor is that more hybrids with improved drought tolerance are hitting the market all the time, seedsmen say. Most seedsmen are comfortable with suggesting higher seeding rates for these types of hybrids.