Does planting corn at 60″ – double its “normal” spacing – make sense?
When Bob Recker turned off every other row on his no-till planter, doubled the plant population, and punched seed into Iowa soil, he crossed into the uncharted territory of 60” row corn. Success or failure, Recker was about to bathe his corn—and weeds—in sunlight, and attempt to maintain yield with only half the growing space.
In 2017, Recker kicked open the door on 60” row corn, and exposed a ton of questions on sunlight capture, weed suppression, cover crops, and much more. According to Recker’s triune agricultural gospel, or triple bottom line, every farmer must make money, grow food and take care of the soil—and he believes 60” row corn could become an avenue toward improving all three facets on the right operation, without trimming yield.
Recker’s question: If every other row is a zero yield, can a corn field gobble enough sunshine to reach equivalent yield, as compared with standard 30” rows? The query is typically rendered by most growers as a snowflake-in-hell proposition—i.e., it ain’t happening.
However, Recker pays little mind to the confines of consensus.
Good. Following the consensus is for stupid people.
The article continues:
“‘American farmers have scar tissue from people promoting things that don’t work, so I wanted to avoid claiming a yield benefit or drag due to a different population. I kept the elements simple, treating one variable at a time. My corn got all the same treatments as the adjoining commercial corn and we planted the same day. My commercial grower/collaborator is excellent and highly vigilant in weed control, and that made a big difference.’
Recker’s 2017 60” corn, with half the ground space empty, produced a surprising result—statistically equivalent in yield to the rest of the field.”
Steve Solomon has taught extensively on the value of wide spacing in the garden. His book Water-wise Gardening explains why.
The idea of less input, more simplicity, and increased yields via wider spacing is fascinating to me.
Looks like farmers are becoming interested again in what our ancestors used to take for granted.
I’m going to do corn and cowpeas or beans together. I have to recheck the spacing. Last year it was a little too close so the corn shaded out the cowpeas some and the really late spring didn’t help for the cowpeas getting done before frost. I did get lots of biomass though, at least.