Corn School: How Do Tillers Impact Yield?

When you see two tillers growing out of a corn root you may suspect the wannabe plants are stealing nutrients from the main stalk, along with yield potential.

But that’s not the case, explains Pride Seeds’ market agronomist Aaron Stevanus on this episode of Real Agriculture Corn School. “Tillers are actually a good thing. It usually means your yield environment is really good.”

He says growers should give themselves a pat on the back for doing a good job on fertility, but they really need to take a closer look at plant populations.

Stevanus notes that the presence of tillers usually indicates the hybrid would benefit from a higher population. “I say that because it’s throwing out those extra leaves. It’s trying to make more corn. That indicates it could actually handle a denser environment.”

At the end of the day, Stevanus says growers will not experience yield loss due to excessive tillering. In a dry year like 2016, growers will see the tillers start to cannibalize themselves and die off. All the nutrients available to the plant will then be concentrated in the main stalk, which then focuses its energy toward making the cob.

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