You can't grow 15-inch corn or twin-rows successfully if you can't plant it properly. And if you plant it, you've got to be able to harvest it. Experiences at the Corn Illustrated plots this year drove the point home. The plots are located near Edinburgh in south-central Indiana.
"If it works and the corn yields more, companies that make machinery will figure out how to make it work," says Dave Nanda, an agronomist and consultant for Corn Illustrated. He says this principle has led him to not worry if a practice he wants to test seems outlandish given today's standards. If there's a clear yield benefit and an economic advantage, others will become interested, and the equipment to make these practices work will follow.
Truth is that there is already equipment for planting both twin row and 15-icnh row corn on the market. Great Plains has offered an option that made narrow rows possible for some time. To plant 15-inch rows, you could use the same equipment that you use to plant narrow row, 15-inch soybeans. Where drills were once the tool of choice for narrow row soybeans, many have shifted to a planter with row splitters to still get a big chunk of the advantage for narrowing up rows, while retaining the accuracy of a planter in seed singulation and placement at the same time.
Today, both Monosem and Kinze also offer planters specifically suited to planting twin rows. In that system, two rows are typically placed 5-inches apart, followed by the next set of rows spaced on a 30-inch system, also 5 inches apart. Kinze introduced its' twin-row planter earlier this year. Monosem also claims to have the capability to singulate seed in twin rows so that no two plants in the twin row set are directly across from one another.
Rows in the Corn Illustrated plots were planted by splitting the middles on a second pass to form 15-inch rows using a 30-inch row setting planter. To make twin rows, the operator determined how to place the second row on a second pass 5 inches from the first row.
Both row widths were harvested with a 30-inch row-width cornhead. The twin rows didn't pose a problem in determining where to drive, the operator determined. And the two rows fed easily into one set of snapping rolls.
However, following row patterns on 15-inch rows was a different story. The combine wasn't set up to use auto-steering in corn. Those who have added the Row Sense feature to Deere heads and coupled it with auto-steering say even harvesting down, matted corn isn't overly difficult. But without these aids, trying to stay on the right row in the 15-inch corn, even when it was still standing relatively well, was difficult. One of the first things the operator said after finishing those plots was that he certainly wouldn't want to harvest a whole field of 15-inch rows with a 30-inch head!
That spacing didn't turn out to be a winner in the CI plots this year. But if it someday does take off, equipment companies will come along with the right tools, Nanda believes. Even now, various companies offer heads narrower than 30-inch widths for corn harvest.