It's no accident that the Corn Illustrated plots include an experiment comparing row width for corn this year. The comparison will be between regular 30-inch rows, 15-inch rows and twin rows, planted in a 5-inch, 25 inch pattern. The twin rows, also called double rows, may still be a novelty to some, but they're starting to show up more often.
A crops scout last week emailed a picture of double rows he had spotted. As it turns out, an innovative farmer is trying the concept, even though the scout didn't know there were any in the area. It's not a new idea. Fred Welch, then an agronomist at the University of Illinois, experimented with twin rows as a way to better utilize sunlight in the early
1980s. Perfecting it, determining how much it helps yield, what population to use, and what equipment to plant it with have been the issues, more often than not.
Dave Nanda, consultant for the Corn Illustrated project, isn't surprised at the interest in twin rows. The plant breeder with more than 40 years of experience in the field is a big believer in providing more light to more plants, especially early in the season. Any planting configuration that should help corn plants capture more light, letting less energy fall uselessly to the ground, should be worth pursuing, he notes. His ultimate row spacing would be equidistant, with each corn plant an equal distance from its neighbor.
To those who argue that equipment doesn't exist, or at least isn't mainstream, for different planting configurations in corn, Nanda answers that if agronomists, plant breeders and farmers show it works, someone will build the better mousetrap to make it happen.
There are already 15-inch and 20-inch row planters on the market, and narrow-row cornheads to match up with their planting patter. At least one manufacturer, Great Plains, offers a unit that can plant twin rows.
In this year's corn illustrated plots near Edinburgh, Ind., planted the last week of May, the CI crew will also look at how varying populations within 15-inch rows and twin rows affects performance. Should the population be raised per acre if you go to narrower rows, or not? How high can you push the population if you're spreading plants out?
These are questions the tests will attempt to answer.
The plots for these row-width comparisons are in the ground. Stay tuned during the season for an update on how the plots progress.