Will Shrinking Corn Plants By Two Feet Transform the American Corn Industry? It’s Possible!

Sandy Rivers
By Sandy Rivers
An image depicting a field of short-stature corn hybrids, highlighting the innovative agricultural development.

Not that long ago, farmers selectively bred corn plants to make them taller. But, just like bell-bottoms and voice phone calls (FaceTime is still a phone call!), even agriculture can, at times, be a cyclical industry.

The latest agricultural development growing in the U.S. corn industry with multiple major seed and genetic companies involves innovative “short-stature” corn hybrids. These hybrids, markedly shorter than traditional full-stature varieties, could usher in a new era of farming efficiency and productivity. Standing 20 to 24 inches shorter, they bring potential benefits that are significant for farmers, consumers, and the environment alike. We’ll get into those below.

A New Era for Corn Farming

The shift to these compact corn hybrids promises several advantages. Their shorter stature leads to increased lodging resistance, making them sturdier against environmental stresses. They’re also more tolerant of higher plant populations and narrower rows, which can lead to more efficient land use. Additionally, their height provides easier in-season access for agricultural equipment, simplifying the application of fertilizers and pesticides.

The height difference between the shorter corn from Bayer compared to the full stature hybrids were obvious. Credit: Dan Quinn

Pioneering Research at Purdue University

To understand the implications of this agricultural shift, Purdue University, in collaboration with Bayer CropScience, conducted extensive research. In 2023, their trials compared short-stature and full-stature corn hybrids, noting a significant reduction in plant height – 67 inches for short-stature corn compared to 86 inches for traditional varieties. The average ear height was also lower, making harvesting more manageable.

“It’s more than just a reduction in overall plant height; the ear height is also closer to the ground.”
Dr. Dan Quinn
Assistant Professor of Agronomy, Purdue Extension

Despite these differences in stature, there were minimal differences in total above-ground plant biomass, with short corn and conventional corn showing similar weights. The compact nature of short-stature corn results from tighter spacing between nodes below the ear.

Yielding Promising Results

In terms of yield, the short-stature hybrids held their own. Purdue’s research across various Indiana locations demonstrated that these hybrids could match or slightly trail the yields of full-stature hybrids in the same environmental conditions.

More than just overall plant height changes in short-stature corn, Purdue Extension’s Dan Quinn says. Ear height is also closer to the ground. The red line indicates the location of the first ear growth. Credit: Dan Quinn

Impressively, in some research treatments, yields of short-stature hybrids exceeded 300 bushels per acre. They maintained strong average yields, ranging from 240 to 260 bushels per acre in northwest Indiana and 250 to 300 bushels in central Indiana.

Adaptation to High-Density Planting

These hybrids showed a higher tolerance for increased seeding rates and narrower 20-inch row systems. Increased seeding rates, from 34,000 to 50,000 seeds per acre in narrow rows, still resulted in continued yield increases. This suggests a remarkable potential for these hybrids to thrive in even higher-density planting scenarios. In 30-inch rows, the agronomic optimum seeding rates for short-stature corn were on average 6,000 to 8,000 seeds per acre more than traditional full-stature hybrids.


The advent of short-stature corn hybrids is more than just a new chapter in agricultural science; it’s a paradigm shift in crop cultivation. Offering a blend of robustness, yield efficiency, and environmental adaptability, these hybrids could significantly impact farming practices, food production, and sustainability. As these hybrids move closer to widespread adoption, they hold the promise of a more efficient, productive, and environmentally friendly future in agriculture.

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