Manage Corn for High Yield Potential

There are specific factors that need to be considered when looking to maximize corn grain and forage yield. The corn product planted, nutrients, water supply, diseases, insects, weeds, soil properties, environment, and overall management can have an influence on yield potential. Planning is important to help maximize yield potential with your corn crop.

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Dr. Fred Below, Professor of Crop Physiology at the University of Illinois, believes there are seven specific factors that affect corn yield.1 In addition, he says that managing data can also be an important factor.2

  1. Product Selection - This can be the most important decision you make in your crop planning. Choose a seed product with the right traits that will perform well under stress and the conditions of the particular field. Corn product yield can vary based on interaction with the weather (e.g., differences in drought and heat tolerance), as well as with nitrogen and plant population. The interaction of the corn product to these factors can contribute to as much as 80% of the total yield potential.
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    Figure 2
  3. Crop History - Understanding the history of crops planted in a specific field can help to determine which corn product may yield the highest. You should not only focus on the previous crop, but also look back on several growing seasons to get a better picture on how a corn product may perform in that particular field environment. Have crops been rotated, or has it been in continuous corn? This can influence the product traits as well as the fertility program needed to maximize yield potential.
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  5. Weather - The success of all management efforts will be influenced by the weather. Although weather cannot be controlled, it can influence when you decide to plant. There can be yield benefits to planting early, but planting too early may increase the chance of pest and weather-related stress that result in yield loss. Identifying the right planting window is a critical step in your crop plans.
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  7. Nitrogen (N) - On a field-by-field basis, growers must decide how much N to apply and when. In a favorable season, weather and N can account for more than half of corn yield potential. Timely application and loss prevention of N fertilizer are primary components of high-yield corn systems. To minimize preplant and in-season N loss, and provide N closer to the optimum uptake time (V10 growth stage through grain fill), multiple applications of N are generally recommended.
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  9. Tillage Practices - Using the appropriate tillage system can lead to soil improvements and protection of water resources in the field which may result in increased yield potential. Tillage practices can vary according to geography and crop rotation. Tillage may be needed to control weeds or bury the accumulated residue from a previous crop, and to prepare a suitable seedbed. However, minimizing tillage traffic and avoiding soil compaction are key considerations for any tillage program.
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  11. Plant Population - Growers may need to adjust the planting population in order to help increase yield potential. Plant populations have steadily increased over the years. The planting density should be matched to the corn product, soil characteristics, and other productivity factors.
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  13. Growth Regulators - These products can help promote healthy plant growth, preserve green leaf tissue, and ward off pest problems that can limit corn yield. Examples include the growth regulator effect of strobilurin-based fungicides on leaf greening, and the overall plant health attributed to corn seed treatments that can help improve growth.
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  15. Managing Data - This encompasses the data that growers have on the farm, and includes better record-keeping and knowing what you did. Decision support tools from The Climate Corporation and equipment companies can be used to provide real-time decision-making support based on weather, soil, crop, and equipment performance. This can allow a grower to respond quickly to changing weather and field conditions, and anticipate yield-reducing agronomic issues.

In summary, high corn yields are the result of proactive management plans and proper seed selection. All of the above factors, not any single one, will have an impact on corn yield. Growers can make decisions to optimize these factors for obtaining a high-yield goal in each field.


Contact your local seed representative for recommendations on product, trait, and seed treatment selection. You can also use DEKALB® agSeedSelect® for customized corn product recommendations for every situation on your farm.