Runts vs. Weeds

August 10, 2020

Mark Borden, Seed Specialist

When performing “in field yield estimates” for producers, one key factor is ears per acre.

Let’s visit a scenario… a farmer has set his planter to “drop” 32,000 seeds per acre. Traveling to multiple locations in their field. Measuring off 17’5” for 30-inch rows. This represents 1-1,000th of an acre, the final plant population is 32 with no visible skips or doubles. It is very predictable, even though sporadic, that consistently we will find 10% of the plants are a little shorter with a compromised above ground crown root.

The farmer asks, “What causes that?”

We now introduce the term “runt”, which corn breeders refer to as a plant that is acting as a weed. My argument to this is: weeds do not produce ears. With adequate moisture, these runts can still produce an ear that, even though much smaller, can still contribute to bushels per acre.

So… was it depth, debris, below ground insect feeding, or what?

Those factors can contribute, but not necessarily. Industry standards for seed corn requires seed to maintain a warm germination of at least 92%.

2020 lab reports from ICIA indicated that the state average was slightly over 95% for all samples tested. 1st Choice Seeds averaged over 97% in 2020. Seed quality standards are the reason for this additional increase, which benefits the producer financially.

As we dive into the specifics of these abnormal plants, or runts, consider the 3-8% less than 100% germination report. These seeds can, and will, germinate and grow. With the effects of abnormalities in the kernel, they can struggle to compete at the same pace of their neighboring plants, due to a compromised root system or leaf development.

Hopefully, this dispels the myth of runts vs. weeds and the importance of seed quality.

Mark Borden, Seed Specialist