Switching to narrow-row corn has been a yield enhancing experience for Union County, N.C., growers Steve and David Parker, helping them to garner second place among all dryland entries in the state last year.

The Parker brothers produced 268.4 bushels per acre, tops in the Piedmont area and second only to Cherokee County, N.C. grower Ed Wood, who produced 278 bushels per acre last year.

“We switched from 30-inch rows to 15-inch rows six years ago, and it’s been a good change for us,” says Steve Parker. “We were stuck in the 230-240 bushel per acre range for a long time, and we feel going to the narrow-rows has helped us move to a higher level of production, and it makes it easier in bad weather years to still get to the 230-240 bushel per acre range,” he adds.

Parker says he and his brother were not the first Union County farmers to switch to narrow-rows. “One of our neighbors, John Ashcraft, planted corn on 15-inch rows a year before we switched,” Steve Parker says.

They start out with their narrow-row corn with a typical burndown, using a glyphosate-based herbicide. They then come back with a vertical tillage tool three to four inches deep to loosen and warm the soil before planting.

The Parkers plant corn on 15-inch row spacings, and stay between 28,000 and 32,000 seed per acre. They spread poultry litter a week or so ahead of planting and use a light tillage tool to incorporate the litter into the soil.

“I believe the real key to getting higher yields with 15- versus 30-inch row spacings in corn is the precise seed spacing we get with this system,” Steve Parker says. “We’ve had people come look at our corn and they are amazed at how uniform the seed are spaced,” he adds.

The narrow-row pattern gives each stalk its own space and equal access to sunlight. “When corn first comes up it looks like it’s been planted every which away, but when you get in the field and look at it closely, you can see the rows,” he says.