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North Carolina's AgAdvantage - Corn

Corn has emerged in recent years as one of North Carolina’s more important crops. Twenty years ago, North Carolina grew around half a million acres of corn each year; today that number is around a million acres. While the value of the crop obviously varies with the market, corn is typically worth well over $300 million to North Carolina growers. N.C. Agricultural Research Service and N.C. Cooperative Extension programs have helped growers increase yield, thus taking advantage of rising demand and prices for corn.

Research and Extension Programs

Narrow Row Corn. Research done from 1998 to 2005 showed that growers could increase yield by 15 percent if they simply planted rows of corn closer together. More than 40 percent of North Carolina’s corn acres are planted in these narrow rows, with more narrow-row acres added each year. Growers have reported yield increases of 25 to 30 bushels per acre or more and report less stress and more consistent yields during dry seasons. We estimate this research has increased the value of North Carolina corn by more than $50 million (based on a 25-bushel-per-acre-yield increase multiplied by 364,000 acres, assuming a price of  $6.25 an acre).

High-Population Corn. Research also demonstrated that growers could plant more corn plants per acre and increase yield; a 3-bushels-per-acre yield increase for every additional 1,000 plants per acre. Growers have taken this information, provided through extension programs, to heart. The average corn plant population in North Carolina increased from 28,000 plants per acre in 2000 to 34,000 plant per acre in 2010. This research may have increased the value of North Carolina corn by $102 million (based on a total yield increase of 18 bushels per acre multiplied by 910,000 acres at a price of $6.25 per bushel).

Equidistant Planting. Growers can realize a 5-bushel-per-acre yield increase by planting carefully to achieve equidistant plant spacing.

Billbug Battle. The billbug, which is native to North Carolina, is a key corn pest. Growers were largely helpless as billbugs decreased yields by 25 to 40 percent. The most common method of attempted control was a highly toxic insecticide that caused some environmental contamination. Then research showed that growers could apply small amounts of a tobacco extract called neonicitinoid to corn and control billbugs. The use of neonicitinoid in Eastern North Carolina has improved yields by 30 percent and increased farm income by an estimated $25 million.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members whose work focuses on corn

Crop Management
Dr. Ron Heiniger
, Extension crop science specialist
Vernon G. James Research & Extension Center
207 Research Station Road
Plymouth, NC 27962
252-793-4428 or

Crop Breeding
Dr. Major Goodman
, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Crop Science
1236 Williams Hall
Box 7620
Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7620
919-515-7039 or

Dr. Jim Holland, Research Geneticist (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Assistant Professor of Crop Science
1238 Williams Hall
Box 7620
Raleigh, NC 27695-7620
919-513-4198 or

Soil Fertility
Dr. Carl Crozier
, Professor of Soil Science
Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center
207 Research Station Road
Plymouth, North Carolina 27962
252-793.4428, ext. 134 or

Disease Management
Dr. Steve Koenning, Associate Professor of Plant Pathology
840 Method Road
Box 7616
Raleigh, NC 27695
919-515-3905 or

Insect Management
Dr. Jack Bacheler, Professor of Entomology
2306 Gardner HallBox 7613
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
919-515-8877 or

Dr. Dominic Reisig, Extension Specialist and Assistant Professor of Entomology
Vernon James Research and Extension Center
207 Research Station Road
Plymouth, NC 27962
252-793-4428 x133, or

Weed Management
Dr. David Jordan, Extension Specialist and Professor of Crop Science
4207 Williams Hall
Box 7620Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7620
919-515-4068 or

Official Variety Trials
Each year, the Official Variety Trials program evaluates experimental lines, hybrids and varieties of barley, corn, corn silage, cotton, oats, soybean, triticale and wheat. Experimental line, hybrids and varieties are planted side by side. North Carolina growers can then see how these different plants fared under the conditions that year and compare the different plants. The unbiased information this program provides is extremely valuable to growers in decided which variety among the many available to plant under their particular soil and climatic conditions.

Dr. Daryl Bowman, Professor of Crop Science, directs this program
3709 Hillsborough Street
Box 8604Raleigh, NC 27695
919- 513-3444 or