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2023: A head-scratching year for Missouri corn yields

Drought-tolerant corn hybrids proved their worth in the MU Variety Testing Program.

Mindy Ward

December 6, 2023

3 Min Read
Mark Wieberg poses next to a red tractor
NEW HIGHS: Mark Wieberg has been harvesting corn plots for the MU Variety Testing Program for six years, but in 2023, one location caused him to do a double take on the yield monitor. Courtesy of MU Variety Testing Program

As the numbers ticked by on the yield monitor, Mark Wieberg couldn’t believe it, so he stopped the combine, hopped out and checked calibrations. Sure enough, everything was working correctly, allowing the Columbia location to post the highest corn yield in the MU Variety Testing Program.

For perspective, Columbia is typically in the bottom group of plot locations when it comes to corn yield, says Wieberg, who’s been overseeing the program for the past six years.

“This year, it had the overall top individual variety yield at 282.4 bushels per acre and the highest plot yield average at 261.8 bushels,” he says. “That was even better than the Bootheel region.”

Wieberg says this central Missouri location experienced timely rains throughout the growing season. “We would get a couple of tenths here and a couple two- to three-tenths there,” he notes. “The corn looked good from start to finish and was never stressed.”

Columbia was a garden spot in the state for the 2024 MU Variety Testing Program. Overall, Wieberg says, it was a challenging weather year, and despite a dry spring and summer, corn yields in plots were “surprisingly good” for much of Missouri.

Drought-tolerant varieties perform

The lowest corn yields, oddly, were also in the Central region, about 70 miles northeast of Columbia in Vandalia.

There the average plot yield was 129 bushels per acre, with a top yield of 162 bushels per acre and a bottom yield of 89 bushels per acre. However, when visiting with the farmer, Wieberg learned that corn around the plot only averaged 5 to 10 bushels per acre, and some fields even zeroed out.

“That area really didn’t have any rain at all,” he says. “This year, some of those drought-tolerant varieties in dry areas rose to the top. Our plots had those varieties. I was extremely surprised of how good the plot yield actually turned out in that location.”

Two other locations in the state also saw less than 200-bushel overall average yield. Urich, in southwest Missouri, came close with a 186-bushels-per-acre average with only one corn hybrid topping 200. At the Novelty location, the plot average was 175 bushels per acre with a top yield of 186.5 bushels.

Disease, pest and weeds at bay

While dry weather conditions hurt some of the corn crop, it staved off a few other plant stressors.

Wieberg didn’t see much in the way of disease, pest or weed pressure in corn plots. “I think it was hit or miss around the state, but it missed our plots,” he says. “None of those affected our results this year.”

However, there were wind and hail events that created problems for the corn crop.

“A few locations had root lodging where we had some really strong winds that came through in late June, early July, mostly around Mooresville and Rockport,” he adds. “We had hail damage at Garden City, but that came late enough in the season that it didn’t have a major impact on yield.”

Wieberg notes it is good to look at all locations when determining which corn varieties to plant in 2024. Look at the tables below to see the Top 10 corn hybrids from each region of the state. For more localized results of the 2023 MU Corn Performance Test, visit varietytesting.missouri.edu.

A table outlining a 2023 Missouri dry corn test with the top ten hybrids in the Central, North and Southwest regions

A table outlining a 2023 Missouri irrigated corn test with the top ten hybrids in the Southeast and Southwest regions

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About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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