Marion’s Top Tips for Planting Narrow Row Corn

1. In selecting the number of row units for planters and corn heads, farmers prefer an even number of rows at a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio. For example: using a 24-row planter and a 12-row corn head.

2. Row spacings of 15- and 20-inches allow for slower meter speeds, which often result in better spacing performance. Some farmers say that meter speed is too slow in Kinze 15- and 20-inch planters, leading to round seeds bouncing back through the window, which can cause skips and low populations. Some farmers remove every other finger for 15-inch rows. You can also try experimental backing plates with smaller windows that reduce seed bounce and skips. (Kinze part # GD 11788) Case IH planters use a 36-hole drum for 30- and 36-inch rows but need a 24-hold drum for 15- and 20-inch rows to maintain optimum drum RPM. Raising air pressure of vacuum can help reduce skips. 

3. Farmers claim they can plant faster in 15- and 20-inch rows with no yield reductions. Some farmers report they actually get a yield increase because the corn meters are running slower when planting 15- and 20-inch rows at 5 mph.

4. Setting the planter maker 5 inches wider than the row spacing will help avoid knocking down guess rows during harvest.

5. If your planter has an odd number of rows, avoid planting the center row into a deep marker trench, which could result in yield reductions within that row.

6. Planting into compacted tire tracks may cause harm to yields. To help mitigate compaction, you can reduce tractor weight, eliminate coulters, use track eliminators, or move to bigger radial tires with lower air pressure. All of these tactics will help alleviate compaction and tread patterns created at planting time.

7. Wide tires with low air pressure and big footprints decrease soil compaction. Tall skinny tires with small footprints increase soil compaction.

8. John Deere 15-inch planters drive over the splitter row before it’s planted. Kinze 15-inch planters drive over the row after it’s planted. Kinze sells a tire that has no center ribs on it to help alleviate compaction directly above the seed.

9. Top yielding hybrids in 30-inch rows tend to be the top yielding hybrids in 15- and 20-inch rows. It takes longer to burn the fog out of the narrow rows in the summer when there is more soil moisture, so ensure you plant hybrids with good resistance to stalk rot and leaf diseases. Spraying with fungicides will help.

10. Many narrow-row corn farmers believe optimum planting populations are from 28,000 to 32,000 plants per acre. 

11. The risk of lodged corn increases with higher populations. 

12. Optimum populations in 30-inch rows tend to be the optimum populations in 15-and 20-inch rows. Recalibration of the corn meter is necessary for 15- and 20-inch rows.

13. In any row spacing, a good job of planting will result in a higher ear count during harvest than a poor job of planting. 

14. Vertical placement of the seed is probably more important than horizontal placement in 15- and 20-inch rows.


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