When Dave Nanda first said 500 bushel corn would be possible for farmers to achieve, but it would require major changes, few people listened. Now the topic is catching on in many circles.
Nanda is Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc. Despite his projections of the future, he is very programmatic in advice to farmers in the present day. He doesn't push super high populations unless the farmer is sure he has a hybrid that can handle it.
However, Nanda does still believe that someday much higher populations with smaller ears, but plenty of them, will lead toward the 300 bushel average corn yield some components have talked about, and eventually even higher yields.
One seed company is experimenting with and actually planting several acres of demonstration corn in 12 inch rows. They want to show farmers that if it is the right hybrid, it can tolerate it. If it isn't, it can't tolerate such high populations. The 12-inch spacing is approaching equidistant spacing, which is what Nanda believes it will take to capture and harvest maximum sunlight and turn it into corn grain through photosynthesis.
Calmer Corn Heads in Illinois is now marketing 12-inch row corn heads. Nanda doesn't believe these people are doing these things as fads or because they have wacky ideas. While it may be the cutting edge, he believes it will point the way toward the future and higher yields. Farmers aren't going back to thinner populations and bigger ears, and plant breeders aren't either, he insists. The trend will be toward hybrids and row configurations that can deliver more ears per acre. Even if ears are smaller than those now, if there are 50% more of them, at a minimum, yields will go up dramatically.
The future isn't here, yet, Nanda says, but it's a lot closer than it was two decades ago.