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When is the Size and Shape of the Corn Seed You Plant Likely to Affect Yield Potential?

Apr 18, 2013

Featured Seedsman: Gene Meyer, Indiana, gene.meyer@channelseedsman.com

Have you ever wondered if the size and shape of the corn seed you plant affects the potential yield at harvest time? Well, genetically, seed size and shape are not related to yield potential. Research from 1937 through recent years has resulted in the same basic conclusions: seed size does not affect yield potential under normal planting conditions1. That said, exceptions to normal conditions are likely to occur somewhere every year. To understand the effect seed size or shape may or may not have on yield potential, it is helpful to: 1) be aware of how seed size is determined, 2) consider how it might affect emergence and early growth, 3) understand the importance of proper planter settings and know management techniques that may be used to help improve plantability of various seed sizes with different types of planters.

How Seed Size is Determined. Several factors such as specific product characteristics, parent tendencies, and growing conditions, especially during the pollination and fill period, seed sizes from seed production will vary from field to field, and year to year. Seed from a single ear can fall into many size/shape categories. Large rounds usually come from the base of the ear, flats from the center, small flats and small rounds from the tip. Plateless seed usually comes from the base or the tip.image 548

Effect Seed Size and Shape Can Have on Emergence and Early Growth.

  • Endosperm Size and Various Field Conditions: If fields are dry at or after planting, you may see slightly lower emergence rates with large seeds because the amount of moisture needed for germination and emergence is relative to the size of the seed. If soil temperatures are cool or soils are crusted you may notice small seed possibly having a disadvantage as the amount of energy needed in those situations may exceed the amount stored in the endosperm. It’s important to keep in mind, that differences in early growth related to seed size generally aren’t apparent by tasseling or soon after1. Even with the potential effect on emergence and reduced early vigor, the effect of seed size on yield potential generally isn’t significant if harvest populations are similar1.

  • Effect of Processing on Emergence and Vigor of Different Grade Sizes: Before any Monsanto seed is sold to our customers, it goes through cleaning, processing, and quality testing, including germination and vigor tests. While some seed sizes and shapes may be more susceptible to mechanical damage during cleaning and processing, the sample for germination and vigor tests is taken after all of the cleaning and processing is complete. All seed, regardless of grade, is subject to the same industry leading quality standards in place at Monsanto.


Importance of Planter Settings and Management Techniques. This is the area where seed size and shape does matter. Regardless if you have a vacuum planter with a cell disk or a flat disk, or if you have a finger pick-up planter, it would be helpful to understand what tools you have available with your planter to adjust for seed size. Keep in mind that sometimes tools can be as simple as actions, such as the recommended planting speed. Not making the proper adjustments to your planter to account for seed size may cause excessive doubles, triples, or skips, which can reduce grain yield potential by 3 to 10 bushels per acre2.

Summary. Overall, seed size does not affect genetic yield potential. Having a planter set properly can improve the chance of achieving an optimal stand by minimizing skips, doubles, and triples. Focusing on genetic yield potential, seed quality, increasing populations, and identifying planter settings that optimize plantability are helpful in increasing yield potential.

To find out more about how the size and shape of your corn seed can affect yield potential, contact Gene Meyer from Indiana(gene.meyer@channelseedsman.com) or your local Channel Seedsman.

Sources: 1 Elmore, R. and L. Abendroth. April 8, 2005. Do corn kernel size and shape really matter? Crop Watch Newsletter. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

2 Nielsen, R. April 12,1996. Seed size, seed quality, and planter adjustments. Purdue Pest Management & Crop Production Newsletter. Purdue University.

Individual results may vary, and performance may vary from location to location and from year to year. This result may not be an indicator of results you may obtain as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible. ©2013 Monsanto Company. 04112013EJP

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