, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 450-465

Optimization of corn plant population according to management zones in Southern Brazil

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Abstract

Precision agriculture relies on site-specific interventions determined by the spatial variability of factors driving plant growth. The main objective of this study was to assess the efficiency of variable-rate seeding of corn (Zea mays L.) with delineated management zones. This study involved two experiments carried out in Não-Me-Toque, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. For the first experiment, carried out in 2009/2010, management zones were delineated by the farmer’s knowledge of the crop field. The field was split into low (LZ), medium (MZ) and high (HZ) crop performance zones. In the second experiment, carried out in 2010/2011, management zones were delineated by overlaying standardized yield data from nine crop seasons (seven of soybean and two of corn). The experiment was carried out with a randomized block design with three management zones and five corn seeding rates ranging from 50 000 to 90 000 seeds per ha−1. The soil was a Rhodic Hapludox with a subtropical climate. Optimization of the corn plant population within the field increased grain yield compared to the reference plant population (70 000 plants ha−1). Yield increases in the LZ, due to corn plant population reduction in relation to the target population, were 1.20 and 1.90 Mg ha−1 for first and second experiments, respectively. This resulted in economic gains of 19.8 and 28.7 %, respectively. Yield increases in the HZ were 0.89 and 0.94 Mg ha−1, respectively, and were due to an increase in plant population in relation to the target population. This resulted in economic gains of 5.6 and 6.6 % for the first and second experiments, respectively. In the MZ, the adjustment of the target plant population was not necessary. Optimizing corn population according to management zones is a promising tool for precision agriculture in Southern Brazil.