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Kernel Depth Partly Responsible for Big Corn Yields

Kernel Depth Partly Responsible for Big Corn Yields
Yields are high where conditions were good; deep kernel set part of the reason.

One farmer reports he is on track to post the best-ever average for corn yields on his farm. That covers about 30 years. Good pollination weather and timely rains plus productive soils all played a role in helping him up his yield level this year.

Not everyone is sharing in the "wealth" of high yields, but they still get the low price for corn. A few areas where it didn't rain late or rained too much early are turning out average yields at best. Those conclusions are based on anecdotal reports coming in from various parts of Indiana so far.

Related: Stalk With Three Ears Doesn't Tell the Whole Story

Deep, full kernels: Kenny Simpson broke this ear on half on his farm near Morristown to show good kernel development.

When yields are high, kernel depth is an important factor. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist, says when kernels are deep and big, it takes fewer kernels to fill a bushel basket. That means there are fewer kernels required per bushel of corn.

It becomes a factor in determining estimated yield before the combine goes through. Up until a few years ago, the assumption was it took 90,000 kernels for a bushel of corn. Now due partly to improved genetics, the number is 80,000 or even less.

In a year like this where grain fill occurred normally, you could probably use 75,000 or even 70,000 to get a truer picture of expected yield.

Related: Full, Deep Kernels Could Increase Corn Yield

The lower the number of kernels it takes to get a bushel, the higher the estimated yield will be, Nielsen notes. And when the combine goes through the field, it's no longer a yield estimate. What matters is what appears on the yield monitor and goes over the scales. More kernels and deeper, fuller kernels will punch those numbers higher for many people harvesting corn this year, Nielsen says.

The 2014 Purdue Corn & Soybean Field Guide was changed to reflect the change in number of kernels it typically takes to get a bushel of corn. The yield estimation formula for corn now uses a lower number as the factor for diving to get bushels. That results in higher yields than when using the traditional factor of 90.

TAGS: Extension
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