Maximizing returns on seed corn investments – 2013 trial results

Investment in corn hybrid seed is, of course, an annual necessity. Which corn population returns the most for your investment?

Michigan State University Extension educators who work with the Thumb Ag Research and Education (TARE) project evaluated optimal corn seed populations in 2013. Planted populations ranged from 30,000 seeds per acre to 44,000 seeds per acre with incremental increases of 2,000 seeds. This population study was established at two sites in Huron County, one near Pigeon, Mich., and the other near Filion, Mich. This study was similar to a series of studies established in 2008-2010 when the evaluated populations ranged from 24,000 to 38,000 seeds per acre and where 32,000 seeds per acre were found to be the most profitable population.

The corn was planted in 30-inch rows and the hybrid Great Lakes 4879VT2RIB was used. Note that the studies were established on high yielding, well-tiled loamy ground. Actual plant stands were measured June 11, 2013. The Pigeon site was planted on May 14, and the Filion site was planted on May 15. Actual populations were very similar to planted populations. See the following table.

Pigeon

Filion

Target pop

Actual pop

% of target

Target pop

Actual pop

% of target

30K

 30,750

102.5%

30K

 30,250

100.8%

32K

 31,813

99.4%

32K

 32,250

100.8%

34K

 33,625

98.9%

34K

 33,750

99.3%

36K

 35,688

99.1%

36K

 36,000

100.0%

38K

 37,250

98.0%

38K

 38,250

100.7%

40K

 38,500

96.3%

40K

 39,250

98.1%

42K

 42,813

101.9%

42K

 42,750

101.8%

44K

 43,667

99.2%

44K

 43,375

98.6%

Gross returns per acre for each population were calculated using a corn price of $4.30 per bushel and a per bag seed cost of $275. Thus, each incremental increase of 2,000 seeds increases costs $6.88 per acre and an additional 1.6 bushels per acre yield would be necessary to cover the increased seed cost. See the following tables for results.

Two site average yield by population

Target pop

Actual pop

Yield (Bu/A)

30,000

        30,250

190.4

32,000

        32,250

196.1

34,000

        33,750

198.2

36,000

        36,000

198.8

38,000

        38,250

202.7

40,000

        39,250

204.4

42,000

        42,750

200.1

44,000

        43,375

205.1

The difference in yield was greater than 5 bushels per acre between the 30,250 and 32,250 plants per acre (30,000 and 32,000 seeds per acre) rates. The differences between all other populations were 5 bushels per acre or less.

The following tables show a regression analysis of the data from the two sites. Values of $4.30 per bushel for corn and $275 per 80,000 seeds were used for the regression analysis. 

Filion

Pigeon

According to the regression analysis, yields maximized at 38,000 plants per acre at Filion and 40,000 plants per acre at Pigeon. Maximum dollars return to seed ($4.30 corn and $275 seed) was identical for each location at 36,500 plants per acre.

This study will be repeated in 2014 and 2015.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Bob Nielsen, Professor of Agronomy, Purdue University, for providing the regression analysis and for his assistance in interpreting these results.

The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan provided funding to make this study possible. 

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