A season-long look at practices that encourage kernel growth

Getting the right seeding depth for good root structure and even emergence is critical.
Getting the right seeding depth for good root structure and even emergence is critical.

Westfield, IN (May 15, 2024) – Optimal ear development begins with the right planting conditions and management practices early in the season. “Around the V5 or V6 stage, the corn plant determines how many kernels it can support around the ear,” says LG Seeds Agronomist Steve Crafton. “As we move to the V12 growth stage with adequate nutrients and moisture, the plant will maximize kernels in length.”

Even after these crucial moments in the corn growing season, Crafton says it’s important to support the plant’s needs. “As pollination begins, the plant focuses on filling all the kernels it can. If it encounters stress during this period, the plant will abort kernels at the tip, reducing weight and overall ear size.”

Crafton shares his advice for farmers who want to optimize ear size: “It takes a combination of planning and preparation, planting and feeding, and season-long management.”

Provide the right growing conditions

Mitigating plant stress starts with proper soil preparation and planting practices. “Our main goal is even emergence, getting plants up with a uniform stand and good population,” Crafton says. “That involves preparing a good seedbed, ensuring good seed-to-soil contact and appropriate seeding depth.”

Farmers should create seeding and planting plans on a field-by-field basis. “Make sure you’re checking planting depth in every field and throughout the day,” he says. “Getting the right seeding depth for good root structure and even emergence is critical.”

Seed treatments help protect against diseases and pests that can threaten corn and soybean crop establishment. “Seed treatments provide protection on getting a good stand, helping to keep insects away and protecting against soilborne diseases early in the season.” LG Seeds offers a premium mix of the industry’s latest and most effective seed treatment packages.

Feed the right inputs at the right time

Crafton highlights the importance of feeding corn plants what they need when they need it. “The longer we can feed the plant and keep it healthy, the better we maximize kernel development.”

He recommends using a starter fertilizer, then tailoring the timing and application of nutrients to each field’s potential, the farmer’s management practices and hybrid characteristics.

“Starter fertilizer provides nutrients on day one for root update,” Crafton says. “A V5 fungicide application helps keep plants healthy leading up to pollination.”

A plant’s biggest uptake of nitrogen occurs about 10 days before pollination. “Side-dressing or applying micronutrients before pollination keeps plants fed and healthy for optimum yield.”

Plant the right hybrid in the right field

Matching hybrids to specific field conditions can boost yield potential. “Putting the right hybrid on the right acre often gets overlooked — costing you bushels.”

For instance, heavy and sandy soils need different hybrids. “For heavier soils, you want hybrids that can tolerate wet feet. In sandier soils, you need a hybrid that produces deep roots.”

Farmers should also pay attention to how hybrids flex their ears to maximize kernel development. Each hybrid fills by kernel depth, kernels around or kernels long.

“Fields with high yield potential benefit more from a hybrid that maximizes kernels around or kernels in length — also known as a semi-flex hybrid — like LG62C73 and LG64C43. Tougher soils should get hybrids that maintain consistency in kernels around or in length, also known as a determinant or semi-determinant ear, such as LG59C72 and LG63C82.

Management practices also affect hybrid choice. “If you apply all of your nitrogen ahead of planting, I recommend a determinant-ear hybrid that doesn’t need to be fed all season long,” Crafton explains. “With a semi-flex hybrid, you want a cropping system where you can feed the plant later into the season.”

Facing challenges and looking ahead

Navigating the growing season’s challenges and disease threats demands vigilant scouting and proactive management. Crafton advises farmers to be on the lookout for signs of nutrient deficiency and common diseases like tar spot, gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight.

Understanding when ear size is determined and how to enhance it is essential for optimizing yield potential. Timely intervention through fungicide applications and nutrient supplementation can help safeguard crop health and maximize yield potential.

Reach out to your local LG Seeds agronomist for guidance choosing the best seed and seed treatment package for your acres.


LG Seeds is a dealer-driven national seed brand offering solid agronomic support, straightforward service and consistent plant performance that yields. LG Seeds’ portfolio of broad trait choices and tailored genetics brings corn, soybean, sorghum and alfalfa products to fit farmers’ performance goals. For more information visit LGSeeds.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X, formerly known as Twitter.


AgReliant Genetics is committed to providing trusted seed solutions that help farmers grow. We do this by focusing solely on seed and delivering one-of-a-kind, high-performing hybrids. Founded in 2000 by global seed companies KWS and Limagrain, AgReliant Genetics benefits from direct access to a global corn germplasm pool and has a top four corn research program. Through our seed brands, AgriGold® and LG Seeds in the U.S. and PRIDE® Seeds in Canada, we proudly offer the latest innovation to our farmer customers, whether they grow corn, soybeans, sorghum or alfalfa. Discover more at AgReliantGenetics.com.