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Around 10 years ago, a National No-Tillage Conference speaker shared data from a South Africa research project where corn had been grown in 60-inch rows. When he pointed out that these wide rows allowed elephants to walk through the fields, farmers in the audience laughed.
Today, the idea of no-tilling corn in 60-inch rows here in the states may no longer be a laughing matter. After all, we used to plant corn in 40-inch widths so a horse pulling a cultivator could walk between the rows.
While many no-tillers continue to reduce the width of their corn rows from 30s down to even as narrow as 12 inches, a few no-tillers are moving in the opposite direction.
Monte and Bob Bottens dedicated 160 corn acres this year to 60-inch row trials on their Cambridge, Ill., farm. They had four replications with three hybrids, along with several plant population and fertility trials. Over the years, the father/son team has worked with 15-, 20- and 30-inch row corn
“What we’ve learned by thinking differently is asking what would happen if we concentrated the nutrients and took the same number of seeds that were originally in 30-inch rows and placed them in 60-inch rows,” says Monte Bottens. “This wider row width allows the sunlight to hit the corn plant from top to bottom, which leads to improved efficiency when it comes to feeding the soil’s microbial community.”
Their hope is to find no yield differences between 60-inch and 30-inch…