By George Silva and Steve Gower
Hybrid selection, plant population and nitrogen management are among the top five factors listed as major yield determinants of corn. In dryland corn, weather may be the most important factor, but the yields of 2012 were a testament to better genetics and management. The drought was widespread, yet the yields were surprisingly high, particularly among the yield contest winners. There is cause for optimism to reach 300 bushel yield goal as the climate change moves the Corn Belt further north.
Farmers will need to achieve such yield levels to double corn production in the next 30 years and to feed a world population projected to be nine billion by 2050.
To this end, Michigan State University Extension and Dekalb/Asgrow have collaborated in a research project to field test two modern hybrids with different ear types, three population densities (30,000; 36,000; and 42,000 plants per acre), two row spacings (20- and 30-inch) and two nitrogen rates (120 and 240 N per acre) at the Mason Technology Center in Michigan's Ingham County. The plots were planted under ideal weather conditions on May 20. The overall objective is to find how these variables will interact and produce the best possible treatment combinations that will achieve the highest harvestable ears and grain yield per acre.
Testing how these hybrids perform under diverse growing conditions will also provide valuable data to help growers who wish to apply variable rate technology to planting populations and nitrogen rates in the future.
The increased plant residue at higher populations will also receive attention as a management issue. We recognize that moving from a 30-inch conventional row to narrow 20-inch row spacing would require some equipment modifications for planting, nitrogen sidedressing and harvesting. Following grain harvest, the economic aspects of growing corn at various input levels will be evaluated.
This study is being funded by Project GREEEN.
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Silva writes from Michigan State University Extension and Gower from Dekalb/Asgrow Brands, Monsanto.