More On The Ultra-Narrow Row Corn Controversies

There’s no easy answer, but more farmers are finding benefits to slimming down row widths.

Based on his own experiences and those of other farmers, universities and seed companies who have made direct comparisons of 15- and 30-inch rows, Marion Calmer sees a half dozen major advantages to switching to ultra-narrow row corn:

  • A 5- to 15-bushel-per-acre yield increase.
  • More complete weed control.
  • Improved erosion control.
  • The ability to no-till with higher planter speeds.
  • Faster harvesting speed.
  • More bottom line profit.

Definitely a booster of ultra-narrow row corn, Calmer is an Alpha, Ill., no-tiller who developed the single chain 15-inch corn harvesting head system. He’s convinced that the more uniform plant spacing found with ultra-narrow row corn reduces in-row competition between plants and improves sunlight interception that leads to higher yields.

With a population of 28,000 plants per acre, plants in 30-inch rows are spaced 7 1/2 inches apart, 11 inches apart in 20-inch rows or 15 inches apart in 15-inch rows.

7-Year On-Farm Trials

With four replications annually between 15- and 30-inch corn rows on his own farm over 7 years, Calmer has seen an average yield increase of 7 bushels per acre. The 15-inch corn outperformed 30-inch rows every year, with a yearly yield advantage that ranged from 6 to 10 bushels per acre.

5-Year On-Farm Trials

Calmer also has been involved in encouraging other farmers to do on-farm research. A summary of what 43 farmers in a dozen states have learned over the past 5 years is analyzed below.

In 381 side-by-side split-planter comparisons, yields were higher with 15-inch rows compared to…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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