Effect of planting density on nutritional quality of green-chopped corn for silage
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The objective of this on-farm study was to determine the effect of corn planting density on the nutritional quality of whole-plant corn for silage. This study was performed in a commercial 1,900-cow dairy farm located in Piedritas (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Two commercial hybrids (A and B) were planted in experimental plots within a cornfield destined for corn silage. Hybrids were sown at a theoretical seeding rate of 60,000, 70,000, 80,000, and 90,000 seeds/ha in 4 replicates per hybrid. Plots were eight 50-m-long rows separated by 52 cm. Corn was planted with a no-till seeder equipped with a pneumatic dosing machine. Ten plants within each plot were cut by hand at 15 cm above ground. Whole plants were chopped, weighed, mixed thoroughly, and frozen until analysis. Nutritional composition was determined by near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Harvesting occurred at one-quarter milk-line [31.4% dry matter (DM)] and one-half milk-line (34.5% DM) stages of maturity for hybrids B and A, respectively. No interactions between hybrid and planting density were observed for any of the variables of interest. Planting density did not affect either plant DM weight or DM, crude protein, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, or starch concentrations of whole-plant corn. Dry matter yield was significantly increased at higher planting densities. The similar per-plant biomass and nutritional quality among different densities can be explained by the abundant precipitation observed during this growing season (719 mm since the beginning of fallow until harvest). In conclusion, greater yields of silage can be obtained by increasing corn planting density without affecting its nutritional composition, although the effect of planting density with limiting resources (e.g., precipitation) still needs to be elucidated.