Corn Row Spacing Debate Continues in Midwest

Some are switching to narrower rows whether data supports it or not.

Published on: May 27, 2013

If you live in the northern part of the Corn Belt it's likely you can find data that says corn performs better in narrow rows of some fashion – narrower than 30-inch rows, in most years. By the time you reach the central Corn Belt the conclusions aren't usually as clear cut. Agronomists say it has to do with day length, sunlight and complicated explanations.

As a result most universities in the heart of the Corn Belt haven't recommended switching to narrow row corn. However, some farmers aren't waiting for them to prove it in test plots. They feel that they've seen enough advantage already that they've made the equipment switch and invested in the narrow row philosophy.

Plant twin rows: Nick Wenning makes another pass with his twin-row planter.
Plant twin rows: Nick Wenning makes another pass with his twin-row planter.

Some have moved to 20-inch rows. Of those who have made that switch, some plant their soybeans in 20-inch rows as well. Others have gone to twin rows. Until this year, that usually meant investing in a Great Plains twin-row planter, or doubling back passes using GPS to maintain a constant distance between rows. Doubling back has been used on whole field trials, but doing it on a whole farm gets tiresome and time-consuming.

Kinze brought out a twin-row planter this year. Apparently they see enough demand for the concept to offer the planter. Case IH is offering a twin-row planter as well.

Del Unger, Carlisle, is still weighing whether twin-rows are right for his family's operation. He has a field-scale twin-row plot each year, and will have one again this year, even though he's stayed with 30-inch rows so far on their production corn ground.

Roger and Nick Wenning are all about twin rows. They invested in a Great Plains twin-row planter, and use it on all their acreage. When it comes to plots, they're past the point of wanting to compare to 30-inch rows. Instead they want to compare hybrids and populations to find the best fit in twin rows.

As far as they're concerned, twin rows are here to stay. The real question is how to maximize that row configuration to get the highest yield possible from the technology.