Seeding depth affects corn plant emergence uniformity and grain yield

Joe Lauer, Corn Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Rarely do we see a paper published on corn seeding depth and the subsequent impact on grain yield. Precision technologies have allowed for capabilities of variable rate seeding, multi-hybrid planting on the go, and the ability to vary planting depth in real time in response to real-time soil moisture data.

Planting depth effect on mesocotyl length.

In a paper published by Nemergut et al. (2021), corn seed was planted at 1-, 2-, and 3-inch depths on two soil types in Ohio over three growing season (2017 to 2019). Shallow planting resulted in less uniform more extended emergence periods than 2- and 3-inch planting depths. If a plant emerged within 3 days of the first emerged neighboring plants, then there was no effect on plant grain yield. Any plant that emerged more than 3 days after the first emerged plant had a 5% decrease in kernel weight per day. Grain yield per plant increased as planting depth increased. Grain yield per acre was significantly increased by planting depth with seed planted at 2- and 3-inches yielding 8 or 10% more than the 1-inch seeding depth on one of the two soils. Other researchers have also shown improving emergence uniformity can positively increase yield, and that optimum planting depth may vary by field.

Further Reading

Nemergut KT, Thomison PR, Carter PR, Lindsey AJ. Planting depth affects corn emergence, growth and development, and yield. Agronomy Journal. 2021;113:3351–3360.

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