Skip-Row Planting Boosts Yields For No-Tillers, Strip-Tillers In Dry Areas

Researchers and grower find that residue retains the available moisture, while skip-row planting allows the roots to reach the water later in the season when it’s needed.

A malfunctioning planter led Jack Maranville to discover the benefits of skipping rows in his corn fields.

“A couple of years ago, I had done five rounds before noticing that something was wrong with the planter and it had skipped a row. I didn’t make much of it then,” says Maranville, who grows corn and sunflowers on 10,000 dryland acres near Matheson in east-central Colorado.

“But when I was walking that field just before harvest, I noticed that on each side of the skip, every corn plant had an ear on it. I joked with my brother that maybe I should have planted the whole field like that,” he recalls.

“That’s as far as we went with it, but it kind of stayed on my mind. Then over that winter, I heard that some folks at the University of Nebraska were researching skip-row corn,” he says, “and I decided to learn more about it.”

Research Results

What Maranville learned was that skip-row planting offers potentially huge increases in corn yields for no-tillers in areas where a lack of soil moisture usually limits yields, according to the University of Nebraska researchers.

Skip-row planting involves leaving some rows unplanted, while placing more seeds in the planted rows than is normally done. The plant roots don’t reach and use the moisture beneath the residue-covered, unplanted rows early in the season, so that water remains available to the plants in July and August as the roots grow.

Following 2 years of trials at sites…

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