When you watch Bryon Kittleson plant corn you almost do a double take. He’s pulling two 12-row planters, one in front of the other, and he’s planting in twin rows.
The Welcome, MN, farmer has been experimenting with twin rows on corn and soybeans for eight years. “All of our side-by-side tests (30 in. vs. twin rows) have shown a 4-5% yield bump with twin-row corn,” he says. “On beans, we usually see a half- to 3-bu./acre advantage with twins.”
For Kittleson, twin rows on corn mean he’s planting two rows 5-1/2 in. apart on 30-in. centers using two White 6900 planters. That 5-1/2-in. spacing allows the corn head to easily harvest without losing ears. Earlier, he found problems at harvest when he planted corn in 7-8 in. twins.
For soybeans, he’s using 2-1/2 in. cylinder stops so twin row beans are planted 8 in. apart. For the last six years he’s been all twin rows on 500 acres. In 2007 he added the second White planter. Before that he was pulling a modified JD 7100 behind the front White 6900.
“I’m not trying to plant in a perfect Z pattern with my setup,” Kittleson says. “It’s more of a jagged pattern. And I don’t set the planters at the same plant population. I set the front one 18% higher than the back one so it gives us fewer plants that end up side by side.”
Kittleson has tried 15-in. rows, too. On soybeans he saw a little boost in wet years, but more in a dry year. “With our heavy soil and use of manure, we ended up with a lot of white mold problems on soybeans,” he says. “We get less white mold with twins because there’s more air circulating between the rows. Also, I found that I needed to cut plant populations in fields with white mold problems.”
Nailing the right plant population rate is a trick, Kittleson admits. Two years ago he planted beans at a 166,000 population rate, the next year 155,000 and last year he was at 140,000. He now plants corn at 34,500.
He hasn’t observed any real downside to twins. In fact, when it comes to wind damage, he’s found the twin rows usually stand better than corn in 30-in rows.
“I wanted the yield gains from 20-in. rows, but I didn’t want the costs of trading planters or having to buy a new corn head,” Kittleson says. “That’s when I decided to try the twin-row idea.”
The first year he tried twins on corn, he did it on 37 acres behind the house – so the neighbors couldn’t see. Those days are long gone, however.
In fact, Kittleson is now cooperating with the University of Minnesota in a two-year twin-row study looking at plant populations on twin rows vs. 30-in. rows. Results are pending.