Corn Plant Population Research - Water-Limited Sites

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Pioneer Plant Population Research

  • Pioneer has been conducting plant population studies with corn hybrids for over three decades.
  • These studies test for complex G x E x M (genetics x environment x management) interactions, which frequently play a key role in maximizing yield potential and reducing risk.
  • Over the past several years, Pioneer has conducted plant population research focused specifically on lower-yielding water-limited environments (Figure 1 below).
  • For more information see: Corn Plant Population Research.
Map showing Pioneer plant population water-limited test locations in North America, 2013-2018.

Figure 1. Pioneer plant population water-limited test locations in North America, 2013-2018.

  • Pioneer researchers target representative environments based on maturity zone, expected yield (high or low), specific stresses (drought, pest pressure, high residue, early planting, etc.), and other unique location characteristics. Research trials are all conducted in 30-inch rows.
  • Growers can use the multi-year and multi-location results to identify the best potential planting rates specific to their hybrid, location, and management practices.
Planting fieldwork.
Corn in a Pioneer research trial showing drought stress.

Corn in a Pioneer research trial showing drought stress.

Optimum Seeding Rate by Yield Level

  • Plant population research trials at water-limited sites show that corn hybrid response to plant population varies by yield level (Figure 2 below).
  • The seeding rate required to maximize yield increases as yield level increases.
  • The economic optimum seeding rate varies from less than 22,000 seeds/acre for locations yielding 90 bu/acre to around 24,000 seeds/acre for yields of 150 bu/acre.
  • The economic optimum is the seeding rate that generates the most income when seed cost and grain price are factored in.
Chart showing corn yield response to population and optimum economic seeding rate by location yield level at water-limited sites.

Figure 2. Corn yield response to population and optimum economic seeding rate by location yield level at water-limited sites, 7-yr average. (Averaged across all hybrids tested. Economic optimums based on a corn grain price of $3.50/bu and a seed cost of $3.00 per 1,000 seeds; assumes 5% overplant to achieve target population.)

Planting Rate Estimator

  • The Pioneer Planting Rate Estimator, available on, allows users to generate estimated optimum seeding rates for Pioneer® brand corn products based on data from Pioneer research and Pioneer® GrowingPoint® agronomy trials.

Planting Rate Estimator Features

  • The Planting Rate Estimator provides flexibility in customizing the graph display based on grain prices and seed costs.
  • The Planting Rate Estimator has the ability to display population response curves for a wide range of yield levels, which can provide guidelines for creating variable rate seeding prescriptions.
  • It is possible to display plant population response curves at 10 bu/acre increments for all yield levels where there was a statistically significant response based on the available research data.
  • The yield levels available for display will vary among hybrids based on the available research data.
  • Users also have the option of selecting a “Water-Limited Sites” version of the planting rate estimator, which includes data from studies conducted in drought environments in the Western U.S.
  • Growers should use the Planting Rate Estimator as an initial guide and work with your Pioneer sales professional for refinements based on local observations and on-farm trials.
  • View plant population responses from either standard or water-limited research sites.
  • Select and compare plant population responses based on hybrid, yield level, corn grain price, and seed cost.
  • Graph shows plant population response curves with economic optimum seeding rates based on the criteria selected above. Results are displayed as net income/acre.
  • Net income/acre data can also be displayed in tabular form.

Go to the Planting Rate Estimator.

For more information review Corn Plant Population Research.


Author: Mark Jeschke

January 2019

The foregoing is provided for informational use only. Please contact your Pioneer sales professional for information and suggestions specific to your operation. Product performance is variable and depends on many factors such as moisture and heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. Individual results may vary.