The jury may still be out on twin-row corn for many growers, but Mark Peterson has examined the evidence on his farm and he’s reached a verdict: More bushels, more dollars.
Peterson has been employing a twin-row dryland corn and soybean strategy on his farm near Liberal since 2006, and each year he’s conducted his own comparisons versus 30-inch rows. “We’ve done 12 side-by-sides and, on average, there’s been a 4.5-bushel-per-acre benefit to twin-row corn,” he says. “When we’ve been really wet at planting time and had trouble getting a good stand, there wasn’t any advantage, but the twin-rows have never yielded less than the 30-inch rows. That’s been our observation — at the lower populations, there isn’t a significant yield benefit. But at higher populations, we’ve seen the twin-row corn produce as much as 14 bushels better.”
• Southwest Missouri grower measures twin-row corn results.
• Higher population, precision key to twin-row planting success.
• Grower uses planter and drill to put in twin-row soybeans.
Do a little combine cab math with Peterson’s 1,300-or-so corn acres, and that
4.5-bushel edge increases gross crop value by nearly $22,000 at a price of $3.75 per bushel.
“It’s been worth it,” he asserts. “You’re looking at a little extra seed cost, slightly more planter maintenance, and a little more in fertilizer because you’re going to increase your yield goal a little. On our farm, though, it’s paid to go to twin rows.”
Peterson bought his Great Plains twin-row planter when he needed a new planter. The cost, he says, was competitive with traditional alternatives — and the planter can easily be used for 30-inch rows if he chooses to do so.
When he was in 30-inch rows, Peterson’s corn population was 24,000 to 25,000. Twin rows brought him up to 29,000, and this spring he’s planning to increase that to as much as 34,000 plants per acre, depending on the soil in specific fields.
The staggered placement, with 8 inches between twin rows on 30-inch centers, is designed to allow for more plants per acre while maximizing room for root development. Proponents also say the configuration maximizes sunlight use while minimizing evaporative moisture loss.
Peterson thinks the concept works just as well with soybeans, though yield increases are lower. Using both a drill and the planter to put in twin rows, he’s seen a yield boost with each as the canopy closes quickly to cut weed competition.
“We use both the drill and the planter so we can get over more acres,” Peterson explains. “Twin rows work with the drill, but the planter has a definite advantage — you just can’t place those seeds as precisely with the drill compared to the planter.”
Parker writes from Parsons, Kan.
This article published in the March, 2010 edition of MISSOURI RURALIST.