It goes against common thought, but University of Illinois agronomist Fred Below says higher corn populations can actually be a benefit in a drought year.
“Most people think they’d be better off with a low population in a hot, dry year,” says Below. “It’s actually the opposite.” Below says that more plants in the field mean more sunlight is gathered, even if the leaves are rolled. That translates to more yield—as long as that same crop is intensely managed.
Below says his high yield plots encountered plenty of moisture stress and heat during 2011. But he found ear tip back comparable--about 25% in plots with 32,000 plants per acre and in plots with 45,000 plants per acre. “Even though the yield from 2011 trials has not been determined, I believe the additional 13,000 plants per acre will deliver the yield difference,” says Below.
“Farmers yearning to reach the 300 bushel yield mark will ultimately need 45,000 plants per acre under intense management to get the job done,” he adds. His definition of intense management includes banding fertilizer to get more efficient uptake, crop rotation, using high tech hybrids and using fungicides to keep leaves green longer.
Listen in as Below describes the importance of population in a dry year during the recent Farm Progress Show: