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Steve Ford says he owes it to himself to take a closer look at high-population narrow-row corn based on limited experience with the practice his farm in 2013.
“I am not a big risk-taker, but if you could return an extra $150 to $200/acre, you have to look at it,” he says. “At $4 corn, if it is worth 50 bushels/acre, it would be about a five-year payback on specialized equipment.”
He plans to keep the cost of continuing to test high-population narrow-row corn to a minimum. He will double plant with his 30-inch planter and harvest with a soybean platform in 2014.
“I am not convinced this is the future at this point,” he says. “I have to test it on my farm, in my conditions, and my methods.”
Corn planted in 12-inch rows on the left and 20-inch rows on the right highlights how in-row spacing differences could help boost yields in high-population production systems.
Conditions within a narrow-row field could differ from the 30-inch growing environment enough to require changes, he adds. “How do we sidedress N? How do we spray narrow-row corn? Do we go with a skip row and controlled traffic?” asks Licht. “If we go to narrower rows, we will have to shift our thinking when it comes to general crop management.”
For example, preemergence weed control programs could become more critical because of the challenges of making follow-up applications in the emerged crop. But the crop likely would canopy earlier and effectively control late-emerging weeds earlier than in wider rows.
Differences in in-field airflow based on different spacing and shorter plant stature could affect disease and insect pressure – for better or for worse. “Would we have more diseases in corn, or would they be less problematic?” he asks. “We don’t know.”
Stine Seed says that management practices for ultra-narrow-row corn will have to be refined as more experience is gained. For now, the company recommends that growers testing the concept consider using a fungicide to combat possible heightened disease pressure.