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 like most farmers nationwide. They switched to 20-inch rows in 2017 after seeing results from several years of research on the production method from plant physiologist Fred Below and his University of Illinois agronomy students.

From 2013 to 2018, the university’s studies show 20-inch corn in an enhanced management system, as Below refers to it, averaged 264 bushels per acre (bpa). The system includes 44,000 plants per acre, banded MicroEssentials SZ (granular fertilizer consisting of nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and zinc) from Mosaic, 240 pounds of total nitrogen per acre split applied pre-plant and in-season and a foliar fungicide treatment. Narrow rows and enhanced management yielded 51 bpa better than corn planted in 30-inch rows at 32,000 plants per acre, no fungicide, 180 pounds of nitrogen applied pre-plant and phosphorus and potassium applications based on soil tests.

“Narrow rows (less than 30 inches wide) are the future of corn production,” Below contends. “Plant populations will continue to go up to increase yields, but at some point, you can’t do 30s anymore.”

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