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Foundations For a Higher Ear Count

by Mar 26, 2018Agronomically Speaking, Training & Support

We have all the heard the saying “getting back to the basics”, but how does that apply to today's farm that's filled with technology? It is no different from what our fathers and grandfathers did when they planted. Sure, planters have changed and other technologies have been added to complement and enhance the planting operations. There was a research experiment conducted in 1908 by Albert Hume et al. that looked at the distance between hills for corn in the Illinois Corn Belt. One statement taken from that experiment summary sums it up well by saying, “Plant corn thicker if the land is rich and thinner if the land is old and thin.” There are many factors that play into ear count and yield, but here are the basic three.

1. Even Emergence

You need to minimize any type of environmental stress that the corn seed/plant will experience throughout the growing season. Factors that influence plant emergence are:

  • Soil Moisture
  • Seed to soil contact/Proper seeding depth
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil crusting
  • Insects and disease


Even emergence is crucial. Emergence timing may vary across the field, and from plant to plant within a row. Late emerging plants are at a disadvantage to the larger earlier emerging plants that compete for nutrients and sunlight. Late emerging plants have a reduced yield potential as shown in the photo above. The plant is most vulnerable to stress during silking – when important pollination events are occurring. Please refer to the following table that outlines when other stresses occur during the growth of the plant:


2. Select the Correct Hybrid

A second factor deals with selecting the right hybrid. There are many field attributes that each hybrid possesses that need to be considered when selecting the right hybrid such as good emergence under stress, above drought tolerance and resistance to local diseases and insects.

3. Maintain Soil Health

A third factor is to maintain adequate fertility levels throughout key corn development stages. Fertility is critical to achieving yield. Split applications can help reduce losses by supplying nitrogen when the plant needs it the most.

In conclusion, it should be the goal of all growers to plant into consistent soil temperature, moisture, and proper plant spacing. There have been several trials that have been conducted across the corn belt by land-grant universities and industry that show the importance in maintaining proper plant spacing for maximizing grain yield. In order to protect your seed investment you may want to consider SeedCommand®. Benefits are listed below:

  • Lower seed costs and less risk of double planting
  • Easier to follow the end row at harvest
  • Less yield loss due to lodging and nutrient competition
  • Better planting productivity
  • Easier night planting
  • Overcome compaction issues and improve root development
  • Gain consistent plant spacing around turns, terraces, and contours
  • Have planting data readily available on-the-go

Have a safe and productive planting season!