How do farmers get huge corn yields? Inquiring minds want to know

How do farmers get huge corn yields? Inquiring minds want to know

Corn Illustrated: What makes 300, 400 and 500 bushel corn yields?

People who have worked with corn all their life, either breeding it or growing it, are enthralled when they hear of high yields, like the 500-plus bushel per acre yield posted by a Georgia farmer who won the National Corn Growers Association corn yield contest in 2014. They want to know their secrets.

I've talked with enough people who shoot for those big corn yields and have ridden in enough combines with them to know they aren't going to give up all their secrets. They reserve special tips they think may help them out in the corn yield competition next year.

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Where do extra bushels come from? Many farmers wrapped up in corn yield contests may not share all their secrets, but many have at least some things in common. Most move to relatively high populations, and most supply plenty of nutrients to the crop.

However, stuff like corn population per acre and amount of nitrogen applied, and even perhaps when it is applied, could begin to shed light on how some of these top corn yields are produced.

In the Beck's 300-bushel yield plot in their Practical Farm Research plots at Atlanta, Ind., and in customer plots in their 300-bushel corn yield challenge program, several factors seem to stand out.

First, growers start with corn hybrids that will perform well in good years with a favorable environment under high yield conditions. They typically up the population rate at least a tad, and often spoon feed nitrogen when plants are most likely to need it the most.

They also make sure they cover the basics – including using a properly maintained planter to get good spacing and even emergences, and relying on soil test results to know how many nutrients ought to be added if they're after maximum agronomic yield. That may not be maximum economic yield in every case.


From the corn hybrid you select to the seeding rate and row width you choose, every decision you make influences the size and scope for corn yields. Download our FREE report: Maximizing Your Corn Yield.


Farmers going for bigger corn yields usually pick productive soils, often those high in organic matter. Good drainage is also key. The Georgia farmer who won in 2014 irrigated his corn to assure he would have enough water to complete the crop.

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If you have special secrets, you may not want to share everything either. But many also find that good soil fertility, planting early and planting enough population are the basics you need for a good crop.

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