Maximizing yields through seeding rates and row spacing

Ashton Gerard/MDN The North Dakota State University North Central Research Extension Center sign stands amidst the snow at 5400 Highway 83 S, Jan. 12.

In times when commodity prices are at a low, farmers are wanting to save money by maximizing their yields. The North Dakota State University North Central Research Extension Center has been working through different trials to determine the best amounts and ways to plant crops to not only maximize yields, but also to save money.

As is common knowledge to many, not all crops are the same. Some crops like to be planted close to each other and grow as a family, while other crops like to have space in order to grow and mature. Differing planting techniques can help farmers get the most out of their dollar.

“Seed costs for chickpeas are quite high, up to $100 per acre for just the seed, so if we can figure out what the correct planting rate with precision planting, maybe there’s some seed cost savings there,” research agronomist Eric Eriksmoen said.

Eriksmoen said other cost savings can come for farmers already planting corn and soybeans and already using precision planting technology. They can then convert or utilize that same piece of equipment for crops not typically precision planted.

The research center has started studies for crops such as canola, field peas, chickpeas and sunflowers looking for different planting techniques that will ultimately maximize crop yield. These are their findings so far:

CANOLA

A study conducted in 2016 compared seeding rates with row spacing of canola in Minot.

Previously, seeding rate recommendations were often based on crop stand competition for weed control and on the ability of seeding equipment to effectively meter the small seeds.

Now, with today’s modern metering systems and seeding equipment, they were able to apply precise seeding rates and in some instances, seed singulation.

The row spacings used in the study were 10-inch, 20-inch, and 30-inch twin rows.

As observed by the research center, there were no statistical differences in yield from seeding rates. Days to Bloom and Days to Mature did vary, but the overall yields were very similar.

However, row spacing comparisons showed statistically significant differences. Stand establishment was significantly higher with the 20-inch rows compared to the 10-inch and 30-inch twin rows, and produced a higher yield.

In the 20-inch rows, 400,000 seeds per acre produced the highest yield of 1,762 pounds of canola per acre. This is compared to the 30-inch twin rows with 400,000 seeds per acre producing the smallest yield of 834 pounds of canola per acre.

While precision planting did not affect the outcome, row spacing made a significant difference in yield.

FIELD PEAS

A study for field peas was conducted in 2017 to monitor the affect of seed singulation on crop yield. The study was conducted in severe drought conditions, but there was no statistical significance of seed singulation in field pea yields recorded.

CHICKPEAS

A 2017 study by the research center observed seed singulation and row spacing as it pertains to chickpeas in Minot. There were two different varieties used during the study, Frontier and B-90, that had varying results.

Overall, row spacing for both varieties of chickpeas mattered, as the 10-inch rows produced 300 pounds more per acre than the 15-inch rows (1,304-pounds per acre verses 1,028-pounds per acre). Seeding rates also mattered for both, as the 130,000 seeds per acre did not produce as high of yield as the 175,000 and 220,000 per acre (978-pounds per acre verses 1,282- and 1,239-pounds per acre).

In the study, the Frontier variety out-performed B-90 and produced higher yields in almost every seeding rate.

The most successful yields for the Frontier variety occurred when using 10-inch row spacing at 175,000 seeds per acre. This produced a yield of 1,789-pounds of chickpeas per acre.

For the B-90 variety, the most successful yields occurred when using 10-inch row spacing at 175,000 seeds per acre. This produced a yield of 1,260-pounds of chickpeas per acre.

Overall, from this study, the 10-inch row spacing with a higher seed rate works best for chickpeas.

SUNFLOWERS

A 2017 study for sunflowers compared 15-inch, 30-inch and twin row planting configurations using four different seeding rates.

Overall, the row spacings themselves did not show significant statistical differences between yields, but the seeding rate did.

The seeding rates used for the study were 15k, 20k, 25k, and 30k seeds per acre.

The trial showed a yield advantage from planting at higher seeding rates without lowering seed quality. Sunflowers are known for their ability to flex their head size according to population and growing conditions. This was expressed in the study.

In a 30-inch row spacing, a 30,000 seeding rate produced a yield of 2,958 pounds per acre. In the twin row spacing, a 30,000 seeding rate produced 3,003 pounds per acre. Finally, in a 15-inch row spacing, a 30,000 seeding rate produced a yield of 3,116 pounds per acre.

According to the study: The highest seeding rate produced a significantly higher yield and percentage of larger seeds than the other seeding rates.

(These studies are in preliminary stages and further testing is needed to be done in order to recommend switching planting strategies. To stay up-to-date with NDSU’s research in the Minot area, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/northcentralrec.)