Corn School: How poor kernel set impacts yield

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Good kernel set — from the tip to the butt of the ear — plays a key role in achieving high corn yield.

But every year growers run into environmental and agronomic challenges the can lead to poor pollination, aborted kernels and a significant impact on yield. On this episode of the RealAgriculture Corn School, PRIDE Seeds agronomist Stephanie Myslik says poor kernel set is something growers and agronomists see every year, but these poor ears were more widespread in 2023.

According to Myslik, one of the key agronomic contributors is uneven emergence — something growers saw plenty of this spring as a lack of moisture and dry planting conditions produced high numbers of late-emerging seeds and uneven stands. When those plants fall behind they don’t catch up and aborted kernels are a typical symptom of their delayed development. “The plants have to come up together, they have to silk and tassel at the same time for the pollen to get the silks,” she says.

Myslick adds that heat and excessive moisture — something many Ontario corn fields experienced this year — can also cause pollination problems. On top of that,  the crop had to contend with smoke from Canadian wild fires and a general lack of sunlight, which can also compromise kernels.

What impact can those lost kernels have on yield? “The numbers say if you lose just one kernel per plant on 34,000 plants per acre, you can potentially lose up to five to six bushels of yield. So we really want to make sure we get kernel set right,” she says.

In the video, Myslick looks at how kernel set can vary from plant to plant in the row and shares tips on agronomic practices growers should consider to help mitigate the problem.

Tap here for more Corn School videos.

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Corn School (view all)Season 12 (2023) Episode 4
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