Ronnie Heiniger, North Carolina State University agronomist, corn specialist and general guru of corn growers in the Tar Heel state says paying attention to the good, the bad, and the ugly of corn production is a good way to produce high yielding crops.

Speaking at a recent grain crops field day, Heiniger compared corn production to the cowboy classic movie from the 1970s — “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.”

The good, Heiniger says, is increasing light use by the corn plant. The bad is crop stress and the ugly is yield robbers, especially abnormal high temperatures and leaf diseases.

THE GOOD — increasing light use by the corn plant

“Seeding rate is the second most important decision a corn grower makes because it directly affects the ‘good’ of high yielding corn. The good, is increasing light use by the plant,” Heiniger says.

The best way to optimize light use by corn plants is to have the optimum number of plants in the field. Exactly what that optimum number is can be difficult.

Across multiple years of testing at multiple sites in North Carolina, Heiniger says the optimum interception of radiation by corn plants came at plant populations near 40,000 per acre.

In comparing row widths in the same series of tests, he says, 18-inch rows intercepted more light than did twin rows or conventional 36-inch rows.

The higher plant populations, planted in 18-inch rows, consistently produced higher yields, but made the most difference in higher-yielding fields. In the lower yielding fields, yield differential across all three row spacings and plants per acre, ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 per acre, yields were comparable, with a slight edge for higher plant populations.