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Sixty-Inch Row Spacing in Corn (08/06/20)

There is interest in growing corn with a 60-inch row spacing to facilitate the establishment of cover crops during the growing season. Establishing cover crops in corn with the commonly used row spacings of 22- or 30-inch row spacing can be very challenging.

There is interest in growing corn with a 60-inch row spacing to facilitate the establishment of cover crops during the growing season. Establishing cover crops in corn with the commonly used row spacings of 22- or 30-inch row spacing can be very challenging. Our own research has shown that light is usually the main factor limiting cover crop growth with these row spacings. Sixty-inch corn rows allow for greater light penetration and improves the environment for inter-seeded cover crop growth. Given the lack of data on this topic from North Dakota, we initiated a simple experiment this year to gather information on the effect of row spacing on cover crop development and corn yield. Our primary objective of this work was to compare cover crop biomass and corn yield when grown in 30- and 60-inch rows; information that will only be available after harvest. However, I was prompted to write this article when a colleague informed me that there was mention on Twitter that corn grown with a 60-inch spacing was able (or nearly able) to canopy over the soil. That is certainly not the case in our experiment, and I include some photos to allow you to see for yourself. The first photo (taken with a drone) compares 60-inch corn with and without cover crops to 30-inch corn. This photo that was taken after silking, so there will be no additional corn leaf development. As can be noted there is substantial soil visible in the 60 inch spaced corn without a cover crop (Figure 1). On the flip side and as expected, cover crop development is far superior in the 60-inch spaced corn (Figure 2) when compared to the 30-inch spaced corn (Figure 3) as a result of less shading. The cover crops we planted were a mix of cowpea, millet, buckwheat and radish.

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Joel Ransom

Extension Agronomist, Cereal Crops

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