Twin-row cropping may be the wave of the not-so-distant future


LONDON, Ohio — Twin-row planting is generating buzz not only at the Farm Science Review but on many farms across the region.

Many farmers want to know how twin-row cropping will benefit their operation, what equipment is needed, if additional harvesting equipment is necessary, how crops will fare, and if the returns are worth the investment.

Some say better plant genetics is pushing the idea; other proponents say it just makes sense if a farmer is trying to increase profits with better yields on the same amount of acreage.

What is twin row cropping?

Crops are planted in twin rows, 7 or 8 inches apart, on 30-inch centers, with a staggered seed drop. According to Auglaize County OSU Extension Educator John Smith, the seed is allowed more growing room in the pattern.

This zigzag seed pattern allows plants and their roots to grow over a larger area, allowing plants to catch and process more sunlight and gain better access to nutrients, with fewer diseases, all resulting in healthier, more uniform crops and improved yields.
Although a different planter is needed, farmers can use the same corn head on their combine that they’re using now.

Better genetics

Tom Evans, company representative for Great Plains, said genetics is the force behind the idea of a twin-row cropping system.

“It’s going to be the way North America plants corn,” Evans said. He added that Pioneer and Monsanto are setting the bar so that crop yields double by the year 2030.

He said his company has had continuous test plots for the past 10 years utilizing the twin-row idea.

Test plots

The outcome has showed that light is utilized more efficiently by the plants, which will result in higher profits for farmers on less land. It allows the right amount of light to reach each plant.

Evans said farmers have been planting corn 30 inches apart for the past 60 years, but now it’s time for a change. Corn is still being planted with a 30-inch center, but the single row is replaced by two rows 8 inches apart.

To convert to twin-row planting, farmers need a planter capable of twin-rows; the combine they are already using for harvest will still work. The same planter can be used for corn or soybeans.

The corn has to be planted in a diamond patters so that the root system can adequately develop, giving it room to expand rather than grow side by side.

Great Plains has discovered through test plot research that corn can be planted with a seed population as high as 60,000 seeds per acre because of the space between the plants.

Popularity growing

Henk Klyn and Mark VanVeen, regional sales managers for Salford Farm Machinery, agree the concept of twin-row cropping is definitely growing in popularity.

From their view, soybeans are the most popular crop to be planted in twin rows right now, but look for both corn and soybean twin-row systems to grow. They said that as more seed companies develop varieties for twin-row cropping systems, the more popular they expect it to become.

Research continues

John Smith, OSU extension educator for Auglaize County, has been working with test plots for twin-row planting for three years, and agrees there are many advantages to farmers.

Soybeans grown in 7-inch twin rows can still be cultivated without a problem, but they have to be a tall variety of soybean instead of semi-dwarf varieties.

And Smith agrees with Evans, the idea is bigger profits with little money spent on new equipment. To see if twin row planting could help your operation, check out the twin row profit calculator.

Disadvantage noted

Evans did admit one disadvantage is when farmers want to switch from corn to soybeans. He said the stalks left behind after harvest could be a problem when you want to plant soybeans because the soybean plants would have to be moved over from the corn rows in order for it to prosper.

Additional research is needed to find the best plant population.

“It looks like a good system to me. It’s something anyone can do without buying new equipment,” Evans said.

He said one advantage is with disease problems. Evans has discovered that he has noticed very little problems with disease compared to using 15-inch rows.

The future of the idea of twin-row cropping will depend on how much genetics improves, as promised by seed companies, and how many farmers decide whether or not the promise of better yields justifies a new planter or adapting the current one for the job.

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