According to data presented by Dr. Ron Heiniger, NCSU Professor of Crop Science and Cropping Systems Specialist, the key elements of management for high corn yields within Eastern NC are: 1) proper planting dates; 2) hybrid selection; 3) plant population; 4) application of a starter fertilizer in a 2 X 2 or 2 X 3 placement to the seed; and, 5) proper nitrogen (N) rates applied according to soil type, hybrid potential and existing plant growth.
1) Selection of planting dates should provide the highest probability of adequate soil moisture during early season growth and during critical reproduction stages. Avoidance of water stress during these critical stages is critical to high corn yield. Appropriate planting dates can be projected using a hybrid’s maturity group and projected climatic factors. Data providing climatic data can be found at http://agroclimate.org/. Historically, highest corn yield is achieved within Craven County when planted within the first two weeks of April or between May 10-20th.
2) Hybrid selection is another critical component of high corn yields. Varieties must match realistic yield expectations (RYE) for the specific soil, anticipated planting dates, known pest problems, targeted plant population and appropriate level of management. Failure to consider all of these factors when selecting varieties can result in poor yield. North Carolina State University provides growers with historic varietal performance data through NCSU Official Variety Trials. This data is available through local Extension offices as well as at the web page, http://www.ncovt.com/. In addition to this data, many NC Cooperative Extension Agents have begun coordinating varietal trials. These trials provide data for the same varieties planted in multiple counties, planted to different soil types, planted with differing planting dates and using different management styles. This data is available for download HERE.
3) Final plant population is critical. The population should be based upon the varieties historic yield potential, the soil type RYE, fertilization practices, probability of adequate water availability at reproduction stages and individual risk. Generally for this area, final plant population should range from 24,000 to 33,000 plants per acres. For soils with higher water holding capacity or irrigation capacity, a population as high as 43,000 plants per acres is acceptable.