The corn is emerging and now is the best time to walk your fields and assess your planting quality. There are two methods I use to determine population. The “row length” evaluation method and the “hula hoop” evaluation method.
The row length method is just what it sounds like. Count the number of plants in a row using the chart below to determine how far along the row you should measure. Then multiply that number by 1,000 to determine your population.
This approach uses a hula hoop. Yep, that thing that used to be used for exercise in the 50’s. Plop a hula hoop down and count the number of plants that fit inside. Multiply that by the conversion factor below to determine your population.
Hint: the bigger the hula hoop the better.
Pick your method above and then repeat 6-7 times in different spots throughout your field and establish your average population.
Your actual results should be within 5% or 1,500 plants of your target population. Use an average of 5-6 bu/A per 1,000 plants to estimate your yield potential. A reduction in population from your goal is going to have a big impact on your yields.
When measuring populations also take an average spacing in each of the 6-7 locations. Ideally, 80% of the plants should be within 2 inches of the target spacing (8.38” in 22” rows, 6.17” in 30” rows with a stand of 34,000 plants). If you find you have uniformity issues, ask yourself these questions:
Corn plants should all germinate within a 48–hour window to be uniform. If a plant emerges outside that window and grows one collar or more behind its neighbor, it probably will not produce an ear or will miss the ideal pollination window.
Remember that stand evaluations are in investment in future crops. Taking the time to evaluate your stand now will set you up to make smarter, better decisions next year.
Do hula hoops and manual counting sound a little “old school”? The future of stand counts is closer than you might think. We’ve been working closely with some tech companies to identify if we can create stand quality maps using drone imagery. We’ve is technology we’ve had our eyes on for several years and have seen promising results with our recent testing. Check out this Dakota Farmer interview with Nolan.