Understanding variability in optimum plant density and recommendation domains for crowding stress tolerant processing sweet corn

Daljeet S. Dhaliwal, Martin M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research shows significant economic benefit if the processing sweet corn [Zea mays L. var. rugosa (or saccharata)] industry grew crowding stress tolerant (CST) hybrids at their optimum plant densities, which may exceed current plant densities by up to 14,500 plants ha-1. However, optimum plant density of individual fields varies over years and across the Upper Midwest (Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin), where processing sweet corn is concentrated. The objectives of this study were to: (1) determine the extent to which environmental and management practices affect optimum plant density and, (2) identify the most appropriate recommendation domain for making decisions on plant density. To capture spatial and temporal variability in optimum plant density, on-farm experiments were conducted at thirty fields across the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, from 2013 to 2017. Exploratory factor analysis of twelve environmental and management variables revealed two factors, one related to growing period and the other defining soil type, which explained the maximum variability observed across all the fields. These factors were then used to quantify the strength of associations with optimum plant density. Pearson’s partial correlation coefficients of ‘growing period’ and ‘soil type’ with optimum plant density were low (ρ1 = -0.14 and ρ2 = -0.09, respectively) and non-significant (P = 0.47 and 0.65, respectively). To address the second objective, six candidate recommendation domain models (RDM) were developed and tested. Linear mixed effects models describing crop response to plant density were fit to each level of each candidate RDM. The difference in profitability observed at the current plant density for a field and the optimum plant density under RDM level represented the additional processor profit ($ ha-1) from a field. The RDM built around ‘Production Area’ (RDMPA) appears most suitable, because plant density recommendations based on RDMPA maximized processor profits as well grower returns better than other RDMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0228809
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding variability in optimum plant density and recommendation domains for crowding stress tolerant processing sweet corn'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this