Delta center comparing twin-row crop systems

Twin-row planting may not be as simple as two rows of plants for the price of one, but the concept apparently saves enough money that it is gaining popularity among Delta row crop producers. Farmers report economic benefits to planting two rows of seed on one bed, and agronomists and researchers are working to determine if the practice reduces input costs without sacrificing yields.

“To date, most of yield increases are based on testimonials and not replicated trials,” said Dan Poston, soybean agronomist and researcher at the Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville, Miss. “Trey Koger (USDA weed specialist) and I are working on several facets of the twin-row system to determine the most practical seeding rate for the system and if there really are yield differences.”

Poston said the 2005 research plots escaped the replanting some other research fields required and show a lot of promise. “We should have some good numbers by the end of this season.”

Poston and Koger are looking at spray coverage issues and canopy closure in the systems.

“Several reasons come to mind as to why growers are adopting the twin-row system. First is convenience. This system allows growers the flexibility of raised beds for cotton, soybean and corn production,” said Poston. “Raised beds have always been the easiest way to improve drainage and facilitate irrigation.

“Outside of drainage and irrigation, the twin-row system canopies sooner and more completely, especially with early-maturing varieties, than single wide rows.”

Poston said a good stand is more probable when five or six seeds are planted per foot of row as compared to only two to four seeds per foot of row in single-row drilled or narrow-row planting.

“This was demonstrated clearly this year. We had a larger than normal amount of replanting, predominantly in narrow-row plantings. Very few if any twin-row or wide-row fields with five or more seed per row foot were replanted,” said Poston. “The largest drawback to this system is the initial cost of a planter.”

At the Delta Conservation Demonstration Center at Metcalfe, Miss., in Washington County, several fields are planted on twin rows this year.

“We are always looking to try something new that will benefit agriculture,” said Hiram Boone, director of the non-profit DCDC. “Twin-row corn and soybeans are not new to the area, but as more farmers find success with the practice, we felt it would be good to provide a public demonstration while making our own comparisons of twin-row versus single-row conservation farming.

“We want to see if we benefit from a reduction in trips across the field, using fewer chemicals and reducing irrigation applications.

“We learned early that to plant twin-row crops you need a flat bed. Otherwise, you will be planting on the shoulder or row middle, which results in a single row of crop. This defeats the purpose of planting twin-row crops.”

Boone said rolling the seedbeds after bedding will provide the width needed to properly plant a twin-row crop. “We maintain detailed records of our twin-row system and our single-row crops. After harvest we can compare costs and yields of the twin-row system to a single row system,” he said.

The twin-row demonstrations are in fields 14 and 15 and are among 30 field demonstrations open to the public at the DCDC, which is on Feather Farm Road east of the Greenville, Miss., airport. Each field is marked with a field sign and a mailbox. Handouts on each field's history, current use, and inputs are updated weekly and available in the mailboxes.

Visitors are welcome during business hours, Monday through Friday. For individual tours and to talk with the DCDC farm staff about specific demonstrations, the DCDC hosts open house from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month.

Visit or call 662-332-0400 for information.

Eva Ann Dorris is an ag journalist from Pontotoc, Miss. She can be reached at 662-419-9176 or [email protected].

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