Sixty-inch spacing for corn is sure not for everyone, but the math and soil conservation rewards can work for farmers who have limited rotations and can benefit from extended grazing for livestock on well-established cover crops.

That’s Sunderland, Ontario, farmer Ed Hanson’s takeaway from the first year of growing corn in 60-inch rows on his farm. Hanson, who also works for Cangrow Crop Solutions, teamed up with farmers in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia this summer to facilitate on-farm trials testing the wide-row strategy.

On this episode of RealAgriculture Corn School, Hanson shares what the group learned in year one. He notes that they planted several different row configurations ranging from 60-inch rows (population 16,000 plants) to 30-inch twin row centres on 60-inch rows. Cover crops — mainly annual ryegrass, clover, radish and turnip — were then planted at the V3 leaf stage of corn.

Hanson says his group was satisfied with the results of the trials. Corn yields were lower, about 12 percent, but seed savings were significant. Hanson notes that beef farmers benefitted from significant fall grazing opportunities as cover crops extended pasture feeding into December. The practice also helps the farmers meet soil conservation goals. (Story continues after the video.)

At reduced populations and added sunlight, corn plants produced up to three ears helping to compensate yield lost due to fewer plants. Hanson notes that hybrid selection is critical; a ‘flex’ hybrid that has the ability to produce higher yields and more ears in lower populations is a must. Pre-emerge weed control is also another key management practice to keep fields clean before the cover crop is planted and established. Hanson also recommends banding fertilizer at the corn roots for efficiency.

In the video, Hanson also discusses the role social media, specifically Twitter, played in facilitating the experience, exchanging ideas and engaging the group, especially with interaction limitations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, Hanson was pleased with the first year of trials and they’ll be looking to incorporate learning for 2021 trials.

Click here for more Corn School episodes.

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