The key to consistently hitting corn yields at or above 300 bushels per acre will involve higher seed populations per acre. That’s the thinking behind new corn seed introduced this year by Iowa-based Stine Seed Co. 

The new hybrid, dubbed 9733E VTPro, was planted on thousands of acres in 2013. The hybrid is a 112-day number that the company planted on its farms at populations up to 50,000 plants per acre on highly productive ground. The plant is shorter than the typical corn hybrid, by as much as 18 inches, with leaves that are more upright and outstretched.

“One grower in western Illinois made 305 bushels in his test strips in 15-inch rows planted at 55,000 plants per acre,” says Myron Stine, vice president of sales and marketing. “We had other growers who did the same thing and it was their best corn, partly because of the hybrid, but mainly because it was planted at a higher than normal population which allows 9733E to excel.”

Many hybrids can perform in high-population situations—not just those that might be “designed” for those conditions, Stine says. Not all the news for the new hybrid was good. On Frank Howey Family Farms in North Carolina, the new Stine high-population hybrid had yields 40- to 50-bushels per acre less than that of DeKalb varieties in side-by-side test plots.

Due to its smaller stature, the new Stine hybrid doesn’t leave any more residue than traditional hybrids. Stine predicts that as breeding progresses, narrow-row corn will get shorter and shorter.

Even in the narrower rows, individual corn plants are spaced 10-12 inches apart in the row, as opposed to 5-7 inches in more traditional 30-inch rows, according to Stine. As of 2009, when the most recent data is available, 85% of all corn in the U.S. was planted in 30-inch rows or wider, according to USDA. Only 4%-5% of corn was grown in 15- or 20-inch rows.