Manage Corn for High Yields

To get the most productivity out of a hybrid, growers must manage their fields for higher yields.

Factors that may contribute to higher yields include:

  • Improved genetics
  • Seed treatments that include fungicides, insecticides and possibly nematicides
  • Use of Glyphosate and other herbicides eliminating competition by weeds
  • Higher plant populations
  • Foliar fungicides.
  • Crop rotation continues to have consistently positive effects on yield. Rotation can break insect and disease cycles and improve soil fertility.
  • Ensure fields contain sufficient levels of key nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Soil testing can help identify where it might pay to make improvements.
  • Nitrogen levels need to be sufficient during critical times of plant development.

Hybrid characteristics

University and seed company studies reveal hybrids can vary greatly in yield per acre. The more intensive the management, the greater this difference can be. Hybrid choice is probably the most important decision a grower can make.

Corn yields continue to rise, averaging about two bushels per acre in the 1990s and three bushels in the past decade. To achieve the highest possible yields, select hybrids with:

  • Top-end yield potential. Examine yield data from multiple, diverse environments to identify the right product for the right acre.
  • Full maturity to use all of the growing season.
  • Good stress emergence, especially when planting early.
  • Above average drought tolerance - unless the crop is irrigated.
  • Resistance to key local diseases.
  • Traits providing resistance to major insects such as corn borer, corn rootworm, black cutworm and western bean cutworm.
  • Good standability to reduce harvest losses.

Yield content winners

Yield contest winners generally:

  • Apply nitrogen preplanting or at planting.
  • Often side-dress nitrogen during the growing season. Providing two or more sequential applications may be more important than high nitrogen rates in high-yield environments.

Plant more, harvest more

Plant populations are also important. Today's hybrids features stronger stress tolerance, allowing higher plant populations and subsequently higher yields.

In recent years, foliar fungicides are playing a role in increasing yields. Many yield contest winners have adopted foliar fungicides, which keep plots free of stresses caused by leaf diseases and stalk rots.

Weed control offers another way to boost yields. Glyphosate combined with other targeted herbicides can help control weeds early, control them longer and help prevent herbicide resistance by bringing multiple modes of action to bear on troublesome weeds. It's crucial to control weeds early to avoid competition for essential water, light and nutrients.