As planters and farms grow, some farmers are moving away from narrow rows, but research shows return per acre can be maximized by planting rows narrower than 30 inches. That was one conclusion of a recent soy checkoff-funded study that found row spacing and other agronomic decisions can improve yield more than any spread or spray.
When comparing 30-inch-wide rows to narrow-row configurations of 20 inches or less, the study shows an average 2.9-bushel boost from simply switching from wide to narrow rows without using additional inputs or management strategies.
High intensity management bumped up yields an average of 6.9 bushels per acre.
“By widening rows, farmers are giving up more yield than they choose to believe, and this yield loss cancels any yield gains from inputs, based on our data,” says Seth Naeve, Ph.D., University of Minnesota soybean agronomist and principal investigator of the project.
Narrow rows help improve light interception and block light from reaching weeds as well as minimize moisture loss.
Agronomists found that narrow rows do especially well in double-crop soybeans, where seed is typically planted in dry conditions.