Spacing Boosts Corn Yields
By David Elstein
July 25, 2002
Planting corn in rows spaced 15 inches
apart rather than the traditional 30 inches increases yields and has other
benefits as well, according to Agricultural
Research Service scientists who are studying the benefits of narrower row
ARS soil scientists Ardell Halvorson and Curtis Reule of the
Soil-Plant-Nutrient Laboratory in Fort
Collins, Colo., have found a 20 percent yield increase in the first year of a
study using the narrower spacing. The researchers do not know exactly why the
yield increased, but the corn may be using sunlight, water and nutrients more
efficiently in the more closely spaced rows, according to Halvorson.
In addition to higher yields, farmers who plant corn in narrow rows should
have fewer weeds, because increased shading from the corn plants and
competition for water, sunlight and nutrients makes it tougher for weeds to
Farmers who decide to plant corn in rows with 15-inch spacing will likely
have to modify existing planters and combines or buy new equipment. But
Halvorson says the yield advantage and weed control benefits of narrow rows may
justify Great Plains farmers' buying the new equipment or modifying their
existing equipment to farm on the more narrowly spaced rows.
Halvorson studied row spacing of dryland corn and sunflowers in North Dakota
and found similar benefits from narrower rows. Other researchers have gotten
similar results with various crops such as soybeans, and narrow rows may help
backyard gardeners decrease weed competition in their gardens.
Halvorson and Reule are repeating their study this year, but the initial
results are consistent with earlier research on narrow spacing of crops.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.