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High seeding rates = Better yields? Not necessarily.

Jordan Anderson 01/17/2014 @ 1:59pm Digital Content Editor for Successful Farming magazine and Agriculture.com

Thinking about upping your seeding rate to increase yields this year? A university report says that may not get the results you’re looking for.

“Planting more seeds per acre in an effort to maximize yields won’t always maximize your return on investment,” reports Brent Myers, University of Missouri Extension corn specialist.

Factors including planting date, precipitation, and growing degree days play a larger part in yield improvements than increasing seeding rates.

Weather plays a major role in determining the success of your applied seeding rate. Unfortunately, no one can determine what will happen until after the fact. 

Conducting a series of statewide tests, Myers finds that there’s no one-size-fits-all number for seeds to plant to maximize yields. 

In soil where water and nitrogen aren’t plentiful, farmers should consider a more “moderate seeding rate” around 26,000-28,000 seeds per acre. Yet farmers who utilize irrigation and fertile soil with good nitrogen amounts can plant more seeds (30,000-34,000) without wasting seeds and minimizing returns.

As there are more plants growing, competition also increases. Crowded plants battle for sunlight, water, and nutrients, causing weak stalks and fewer kernels, says Myers. There comes a point (in all types of soil) where increasing seed rates don’t increase yields anymore. Kernel numbers reach a plateau and decrease with more plants competing for nutrients and water.

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