No-Till Notes: Consider Residue, Starter Fertilizer with Narrow Rows

No-tillers looking to improve residue clearance and apply starter fertilizer in their ultra-narrow-row systems may need to make adjustments so all management objectives are achievable.

AS TRENDS move toward higher corn populations, many no-tillers are switching row widths from 30 inches down to 20 or 15.

Moving rows closer together generally increases yields, but in no-till it also increases the chances of residue buildup between the planter row units and limits your ability to add starter fertilizer openers.

Removing residue from the seedbed area and keeping good residue flow through the planter is essential to achieve uniform stands. Providing in-row starter fertilizer increases early plant growth and translates to higher yields and profitability.

Here are some tips on how to manage residue and provide starter fertilizer in a narrow-row system.

Opting for 20s

On our farm, when we considered which narrow-row spacing would help us better harvest moisture and sunlight, we also thought about how the new row spacing would affect our ability to manage the new system.

Planting no-till corn in 15-inch rows can create new management challenges. Cleaning the entire residue away from the planting area is almost impossible with 15-inch rows because there’s simply not enough room for the residue to flow between the planter’s row units.

In addition, planter gauge wheels generally won’t maintain proper seeding depths because they can’t fit between the previous year’s 15-inch crowns.

Staggered planting units, multiple planter unit bars and pusher units can improve residue flow, but in each of these 15-inch-row systems the row cleaners in the front row throw residue in the path of the back row.

The row cleaners on the back row…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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