Plant emergence and maize (Zea mays L.) yield across multiple farmers’ fields

S. Albarenque, B. Basso*, O. Davidson, B. Maestrini, R. Melchiori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Context: Uneven crop stands result from natural variation in emergence time that is related to soil moisture and temperature, and variation of within-row plant-to-plant distance caused during planting operations. Understanding the effect of the spatial and temporal variation of plant emergence on crop yield can help farmers make improved management decisions about planting. Objective: The objectives of this work were to i) compare the timing of maize plant emergence across and within sub-field yield stability zones, ii) evaluate the impact of delayed emergence on crop yield and yield components by yield stability zone, and iii) compare the effect of spatial and temporal variability of plant emergence on crop yield and yield components. Methods: Ten experiments were conducted in farmers’ maize fields in Springport (Michigan, US), Portland (Michigan, US), and Parana (Entre Rios, Argentina). Several years of yield monitored data for each field were used to delimitate yield stability zones (YSZ). Individual plant emergence was recorded daily, across yield stability zones. Emerged plants were tagged and the distance between plants within the row was recorded and used to calculate plant growing space (cm2 plant−1), and to classify them within plant stand as uniform, double or skips. Tagged plants were hand harvested to analyze the individual plant yield, number and weight of grains, and total crop yield. Results: Individual plant emergence time ranged from 3 to 31 days after planting (DAP). The variation in timing of plant emergence had a greater impact than the variation of within-row plant spacing on crop yield and yield components. In general, the impact was larger in stable low yield areas. On average, plant yield was reduced by 7 %, grain number by 6 %, and final crop yield by 8.5 % per day of emergence delay after planting. The greater variation in the days of emergence delay when compared to within-row plant spacing variation can be related to the small overall spatial variability within the rows. Conclusions: Plant emergence temporal variability had a higher impact than within-row plant spatial variability on crop yield and its components. The decrease in maize yield caused by the delay in emergence was not statistically related to yield stability zones. However, a trend of a more negative impact of delayed emergence in the low yield stability zones was observed. Implications: Understanding factors affecting the spatial and temporal plant emergence patterns of crops can help farmers optimize their planting operation and may help them with decisions on using more precise and tailored inputs (such as seed rate and nitrogen fertilizer) on different sub-field yield stability zones. Incorporating emergence data and information into crop models will also help improve yield simulation results.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109090
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2023


  • Kernel number
  • Kernel weight
  • Maize yield
  • Plant emergence
  • Spacing
  • Yield stability zones


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