You can’t control the weather, but there are plenty of factors you can adjust to boost the amount of corn you harvest per acre. By choosing the correct hybrid for your acreage, planting to the correct depth at the correct time and rotating with the right crops, you can boost your overall yield and ensure that you are truly making the most of your acreage.
Small changes can have a big impact on your yield, and trying to change too many things at once will make it difficult to track what techniques are working and which ones are not. By identifying your current yield and then making a single change each season you can determine which methods are performing best for you. To calculate your current yield:
Total up the number of ears (harvestable ears) in a row that is equal to 1/1000 of an acre; if you are using 30 inch rows, then you’ll need the number of ears in 17 feet, 5 inches.
Select every 5th ear and calculate the average number of kernel rows per ear.
On each of the selected ears, count the number of kernels in each row and determine the average amount.
Calculate your yield:
(Number of Ears) x (Average # of rows) x (Average number of kernels)
Divide this number by 85 to get an estimated number of bushels per acre.
Repeat this process in several areas and average your results to get a true idea of your current yield. As you make changes. Check your average yield to determine which changes offer you the biggest per acre increase. Knowing your average yield does more than give you a starting point; these figures are also important for crop insurance and can help you recover damages in the event of an emergency.
8 Ways to Increase Corn Yield
Select the Correct Hybrid for your Acreage
Corn experts at the University of Wisconsin Extension sight the importance of choosing the right hybrid each year based on performance trial figures and your knowledge of your own acres and coming conditions. If you have a tried-and-true performer, you may already have a favorite, but viewing the results of hybrid trials and selecting a variety that falls within the top 20% of yield figures can boost your output. The hybrid you choose can impact your crop yield by up to 70 bushels per acre, so making the right choice from the start can lead to a more bountiful harvest.
It’s not enough to just pick the best overall trial performer, says Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension agronomist; you have to choose the hybrid that performs consistently well in different types of soil and conditions.
“How do you identify consistent performers that will likely perform well for you? The secret lies in looking for trials that evaluate hybrids over multiple locations. Multiple testing locations in a single year represent possible weather patterns your farm may encounter in the future. Weather variability influences hybrid performance more than any other variable, because weather interacts with most of the other yield limiting factors. If a hybrid performs consistently well over many sites (i.e., weather patterns), then it will likely perform well on your farm in the future.” Bob Nielson, Purdue Extension
Fully Employ Crop Rotation
Corn after corn won’t work if you want to increase yield – even if you change the varieties used each year. According to experts at the Delta Farm Press, the majority (68%) of the National Corn Growers Association Yield Contest winners employ crop rotation to boost yields each year.
Hone your Planting Skills
According to researchers at MSU, slowing down your planter can help boost corn yield each year; in a recent study, corn yield increased 4.3 bushels per acre by simply slowing down the speed on the planter. Dropping from 6 mph to 3 mph can improve your overall yield, while running a properly maintained planter and outfitting your equipment with a metering system can boost yield as well.
Plant as Early as Possible
Many hybrids can handle early planting, and getting an early start ensures that you get your plants into the ground when you need to, even if bad weather or life circumstances interrupt the process. Plant as easily as your hybrid allows and prep acres in advance so you are ready. Your fields get the most light from May 21 to July 21, so make the most of that time by having established plants that are ready to take advantage of longer days.
Choose the Correct Planting Depth
Most conditions require a seeding depth of 2 inches; this depth takes advantage of corn’s dual root system. The first (seminal) root helps establish the immature seedling and the second (nodal) root carries the corn through the rest of the growing season. Planting too shallowly can prevent those secondary roots from fully forming and result in lower yields; it can also expose the secondary roots to damage from fertilizer or drought. Make sure your planter is well-maintained and consistently planting at the depth you need to boost your yield each year.
Rotate with Soy
Rotation is important, but the crop you rotate with matters as well. Simply avoiding corn after corn planting can boost your yields, but rotating corn with soy can boost yields by up to 15%, according to agronomy experts at the University of Wisconsin.
If boosting your overall yield per acre is your goal, move things up slowly. Going for a record increase in a single year by implementing many changes at once could backfire. Changing a single element per year can help you pinpoint what works in your fields and conditions and gives you the best chance of steady growth and consistent success.
Ryegrass is competitive with immature corn and seedlings, so if you have an aggressive ryegrass population, your corn yield could suffer. ALS and glyphosate herbicides may not fully control your population; limiting the establishment of ryegrass in the first place can help reduce the impact it has on your corn. Experts at Mississippi State University recommend a system that includes a fall application of herbicide to prevent the establishment of ryegrass, followed by a course of contact herbicide in the spring to control weeds that inhibit corn growth and production.
From selecting the right hybrid for your particular acreage and weather to properly controlling competitive plants and timing planting just right, simple changes can have a big impact on your overall corn yield. Tracking what you are doing – and what is working for you – can help you determine the best ways to make the most of your land when it comes to growing corn.
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