When it comes to planting populations for corn silage, there’s no “one size fits all” recommendation. In general, silage yield and fiber content tend to improve as plant populations increase, but recommendations vary based on geography, soil type and the specific hybrid being planted.
“Proper plant spacing is critical for top yield and quality potential,” says Terry Helms, customer agronomist for Mycogen Seeds. “Always consult with your trusted agronomic adviser to determine the ideal plant population for your specific situation.” Helms provides these tips to help determine proper plant populations:
• Generally, silage hybrids can be planted at populations 5 percent to 15 percent higher than grain corn hybrids, or approximately 2,000 more plants per acre.
• BMR hybrids that contain the bm3 gene do not need to be planted at extremely high populations (28,000 to 30,000 plants per acre is desired in most environments). Populations for these hybrids should not exceed 34,000, even with high levels of management.
• Population requirements depend on productivity of both the hybrid and soil. Highly productive soils can support higher plant populations. In lower productivity soils, growers may not see the benefit of increased plant populations.
• Heavier, finer soils with better water-holding capacity can support higher populations than lighter, coarser-textured soils. This situation holds true only in non-irrigated situations. Higher levels of available moisture are necessary to realize the advantage of increased plant populations.
• Silage hybrids perform better when planted on highly fertile soils under an optimum fertility and management program.
• As plant population increases, uniform plant spacing becomes more critical for plant development and yield potential. Prepare your planter early and check it often during planting for proper seed depth and spacing.