What is in this article?:
- North Carolina grower makes move to narrow-row corn
- Will standardize equipment
- Higher insecticide costs
• Like most of Robbie Umphlett’s innovative changes, switching to 20-inch rows on his corn and from a drill to a more conventional corn seeder on his soybeans came only after a lot of testing, some on-site observations and plenty of thinking and re-thinking.
• Robbie Umphlett bit the bullet and invested in the planting equipment that now allows him to plant 20-inch rows. The economics of the move makes sense, he says.
Will standardize equipment
“Next year, they will change cotton planting from 38 to 40-inch rows to standardize all their equipment. The move allows them to standardize all their equipment on a 40-foot base. Even their new 120-foot wide sprayer fits into the 40-foot base.
“That, he says, will make life a lot simpler with standardized equipment across the board.”
Nationally, results of narrow-row spacing on corn have not been as positive. Research studies conducted by a major seed company over a 13-year period from states as diverse as South Carolina and Minnesota showed yield increases of up to 12 percent, with an average increase of only two percent.
In South Carolina, Clemson agronomist Jim Frederick says tests indicate the potential for big yield increases with narrow row planting. Comparing 15-inch versus 30-inch corn rows, the Clemson researchers found higher yields, especially in no-till versus disking plantings.
Overall, Frederick says they found yield increases ranging from 8-70 percent, depending on a number of planting variables. Realistically, he agrees with Heiniger’s assessment of a 10-20 percent yield increase using narrow-row planting.
In addition to improved yield, narrow-row corn may provide some cost savings in weed management. Narrow-rows will create a quicker cover canopy and help shade out troublesome weeds.
Of particular concern for growers in northeast North Carolina is keeping glyphosate resistant pigweed from becoming a problem.
Umphlett says that’s a problem he can’t afford. “If I find a pigweed that even looks like it may be resistant, I remove it from the field as carefully as I can and destroy it — it’s just too big of a threat to leave in the field,” he says.
While reduced number and volume of herbicide application may be reduced in narrow-row corn, physically getting into the field and spraying may be more of a challenge. The tradeoff appears to be in favor on narrow-rows.