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How one farm makes 20-inch rows workHow one farm makes 20-inch rows work

Corn Illustrated: A special planter adaptation allows for 26-inch bulks where tires run.

Tom J Bechman 1

May 1, 2017

3 Min Read
CONTROL TRAFFIC: To keep traffic on the same path as much as possible, John Kretzmeier created 26-inch spacing on the two planter rows where tires run. He had a special curved bracket made to make that possible.

Row widths for both corn and soybeans are all over the board. John and Kristi Kretzmeier, Fowler, Ind., have settled on 20-inch rows for both crops. They’re convinced it’s the right choice for their operation.

“We really like 20-inch rows for corn,” John says. “One thing it does is provide quicker canopy cover. We apply foliar fertilizer with a post[emergence] herbicide application. It makes more sense if more area is covered with corn leaves to intercept the foliar fertilizer.”

Arrive at 20-inch rows
At one point, the Kretzmeiers had two planters and planted corn and soybeans at the same time. While that works well in many operations, it didn’t seem efficient in their case.

“We are lean on labor,” Kristi says. “John and I are the full-time labor force. We both work in the field at planting and harvest. A couple of other people help part time.”

Trying to keep both the soybean planter and corn planter going just didn’t work effectively, John says. They still include minimal tillage ahead of corn due to their soil types, and keeping everything running was a challenge.

“Having one planter for both crops has turned out to be much more efficient,” John says.

While some people kick up corn population in 20-inch rows, the Kretzmeiers haven’t raised seeding rates much compared to when they were in 30-inch rows. They typically plant around 36,500 seeds per acre, shooting for final stands of 34,000 plants per acre. Because their soils don’t vary much, they stick to one rate, even though they have the capability to vary seeding rates.

“We believe 20-inch spacing works good for soybeans, too,” John says. “We get some of the benefit of narrower rows compared to 30-inch rows, but we also have more airflow to help minimize disease issues compared to 15-inch or drilled rows.”

Planter adjustment
When the Kretzmeiers made the decision to convert to 20-inch rows, they knew they wanted to leave a wider bulk on each side of center where tires run. It provides more space for spraying or applying fertilizer with the sprayer later in the season.

“We have a 26-inch spacing between two sets of rows, one on either side,” John says. “We achieved it by moving the row units 3 inches each way from center on those two rows.”

Or at least that was the plan. On the John Deere planter they operate, there wasn’t room to move the row unit 3 inches toward the center. But that didn’t stop them.

“We had a local machinist made brackets for those two row units that angle out from the frame by 3 inches. So we achieve the spacing we want by moving the row units over with the brackets where we can’t move them on the frame,” John explains.

Even if you look closely, you likely can't tell the units didn’t come from the factory that way, he notes. It helps them achieve the spacing they want on those rows.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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