2023 - Volume #47, Issue #3, Page #26[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Shorter Corn Boosts Yield Potential
“The number one benefit is improved standability, which everyone sees,” says Stine. “They also do better in higher population environments, which has a direct impact on yield.”
He points out that increased per acre yields aren’t more grain per plant as much as more plants per acre, each producing about the same amount of grain.”
Stine points to the gradual increase in per-acre populations over the past 60 years. Iowa farmers averaged around 15,000 plants per acre in the early 1960’s versus more than 30,000 plants in recent years. Yield per acre in Iowa averaged slightly more than 60 bushels per acre in 1960 versus 200 bushels per acre in 2021.
“Corn plants produce about a third of a pound of grain,” says Stine. “As you increase plant populations, yield goes up. Our shorter plant types can be planted at much higher populations with at-harvest goals as high as 44,000 plants per acre.”
How much higher depends on soils and other variables, including the particular hybrid. Stine gives the example of one central Iowa farmer who was recommended three high-yield, short-stature hybrids.
“Recommended at-harvest goals ranged from 39,000 to 42,000 plants per acre for maximum potential yields,” says Stine.
“However, they require a higher level of management and more inputs.”
Stine mentions spoon-feeding nitrogen and applying sulfur as two key aspects of needed management to maximize yields. Company researchers have also found that narrower rows are beneficial.
“We have looked at twin rows and row spacing as close as 10 in.,” says Stine. “We feel 15-in. row spacing is optimum, but for much of the Midwest, a 30-in. spacing will do for at-harvest goals of less than 40,000 plants.”
Stine notes that increased yields with the higher population, shorter stature hybrids are most readily obtained in lower quality soils. This is where the greatest response to the increased management is seen.
“Highly productive soils may already be at their limit in yield potential, with micronutrients or other factors being the weak link,” says Stine. “In less productive soils, simply increase the population and the application of nitrogen. You’ll see a big bump.”
Stine notes that in recent years other seed companies have jumped on the short stature bandwagon. However, Stine Seed breeders started paying attention to plant height in the mid-1990’s.
“Ever since we started breeding corn in the 1970’s, our hybrids have been slightly shorter than others in the industry,” says Stine. “As we started gathering data on plant height, we began to understand the concept and what it would bring.”
As they bred for high population, shorter stature hybrids, the company noted an extended silking period that starts ahead of pollen shed and continues throughout pollen shed. Traditionally corn hybrids began to silk after pollen shed starts.
“Sometimes with late silking, you can miss the window,” says Stine. “Higher populations increase plant stress, and the shorter stature hybrids handle it better.”
Placement of the ear on the shorter stature hybrid may also play a role, suggests Stine. He notes that at least one short-stature competitor is experiencing ears closer to the ground.
“Ears on our shorter stature hybrids are a favorable height if not necessarily the same distance from the ground as our taller hybrids,” he says. “However, the distance between the ear and the tassel is less. We’ve selected to move the ear closer to the tassel to improve pollination.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Stine Seed Co., 22555 Laredo Trail, Adel, Iowa 50003 (ph 515-677-2605; www.stineseed.com).
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