U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


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Date of this Version



Published in Agron. J. (2005) 97:1603–1611. DOI:10.2134/agronj2005.0129.


Corn (Zea mays L.) grain yields are known to vary from plant to plant, but the extent of this variability across a range of environments has not been evaluated. This study was initiated to evaluate by-plant corn grain yield variability over a range of production environments and to establish the relationships among mean grain yield, standard deviation, coefficient of variation, and yield range. A total of forty-six 8- to 30-m corn transects were harvested by plant in Argentina, Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Virginia, and Oklahoma from 2002 to 2004. By-plant corn grain yields were determined, and the average individual plant yields were calculated. Over all sites in all countries and states, plant-to-plant variation in corn grain yield averaged 2765 kg ha-1 (44.1 bu ac-1). At the sites with the highest average corn grain yield (11 478 and 14 383 kg ha-1, Parana Argentina, and Phillips, NE), average plant-to-plant variation in yield was 4211 kg ha-1 (67 bu ac-1) and 2926 kg ha-1 (47 bu ac-1), respectively. As average grain yields increased, so did the standard deviation of the yields obtained within each row. Furthermore, the yield range (maximum corn grain yield minus the minimum corn grain yield per row) was found to increase with increasing yield level. Regardless of yield level, plant-to-plant variability in corn grain yield can be expected and averaged more than 2765 kg ha-1 over sites and years. Averaging yield over distances >0.5 m removed the extreme by-plant variability, and thus, the scale for treating other factors affecting yield should be less than 0.5 m. Methods that homogenize corn plant stands and emergence may decrease plant-to-plant variation and could lead to increased grain yields.