Save yield by skipping a row or two

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COLUMBUS – Ten years ago, if a grower had to enter a field to apply a pesticide, he would just drive over his crop and he lost whatever he ran over.

That’s expensive.

So growers started skipping a row, and it seems to work.

Skip-row production. Skip-row production – a concept gaining momentum in Ohio – is a form of controlled traffic. All farm equipment is confined to specific paths, and the remainder of the field is untouched.

The idea is to leave unplanted rows in the field at planting that act as tram lines. If a grower needs to enter a field during the growing season to spray for insects or weeds, the plants would remain undamaged.

“Growers can’t afford to lose yields,” said Jim Beuerlein, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. “Skip row helps growers maintain their yields, while applying pesticides late in the growing season.”

Minimal loss. Beuerlein said yield loss is minimal because soybean plants beside unplanted rows tend to compensate, helping growers maintain yield.

For example, leaving two rows unplanted with each pass of a 30-foot drill would cause a yield loss of five pounds per acre, which is worth 50 cents per acre.

If the cost of seed per acre is $35, then the savings for not planting the two rows is $1.40, which more than offsets the yield loss due to leaving skip rows.

By comparison, running over two plant rows with a 60-foot sprayer in August will cause a yield loss of $7.80 if soybeans are selling for $7.50 per bushel.

Leaving two skip-rows with a 30-foot wide drill would increase profit by 90 cents per acre ($1.40 savings or not planting the two rows minus 50 cents cost in yield loss for leaving the two rows unplanted).

Beuerlein says using a skip-row system could generate $8.40 more income per acre than destroying two rows of crop.

Not that difficult. “People think the concept is really complicated and it’s not,” Beuerlein said.

“They just have to make sure that the sprayer they use is one to five times the size of the planter, so when you make the tracks with the planter, you can go back into the field and drive on the same tracks with the sprayer,” he said.

Ohio State researchers use skip-row production in their soybean variety performance tests.

“Every year there has been a need for us to get into our fields late in the season, and for the sake of data, we can’t afford to have some plots damaged and others not.”

Beuerlein speculates that about one in every four fields will need some sort of herbicide or insecticide application in August.

“The skip-row system works. The equipment is easy to set up and there are no skips, no overlaps, no wasted material. If you need it, you’ll benefit from it. If you don’t need it, it doesn’t cost you anything,” said Beuerlein.

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