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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improved Soil Managment Practices for Tilled Summer Fallow in the Pacific Northwest

Location: Soil and Water Conservation Research

Title: Wide row spacing for deep-furrow planting of winter wheat

Authors
item Schillinger, William -
item Wuest, Stewart

Submitted to: Field Crops Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 17, 2014
Publication Date: September 17, 2014
Citation: Schillinger, W.F., Wuest, S.B. 2014. Wide row spacing for deep-furrow planting of winter wheat. Field Crops Research. 168(2014)57-64.

Interpretive Summary: To seed fall-planted wheat in areas with dry summers, farmers use deep-furrow drills with rows spaced 40- to 45-cm apart and plant as deep as 20 cm to reach moisture. Current drills have problems with large amounts of crop residue. A wider row spacing would make it possible to seed through heavy residue without plugging. We conducted field experiments over three years at three sites with row spacing of 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, and 80 cm and measured effects on grain yield, grain yield components, straw production, and weed dynamics. Our research shows that, in dry environments, row spacing for WW production in the PNW can be widened to at least to 50 cm and most likely 55 cm to facilitate conservation-tillage farming with equal grain and straw production compared to narrower row spacing currently used by farmers.

Technical Abstract: A winter wheat, summer fallow rotation is practiced on 1.56 million cropland hectares in the low-precipitation (<300 mm annual) region of the Inland Pacific Northwest of the United States (PNW). Farmers use deep-furrow drills with rows spaced 40- to 45-cm apart to plant as deep as 20 cm to reach moisture in summer fallow (SF). Conservation tillage methods have been successfully developed that preserve ample residue during SF to control wind erosion, but existing drills cannot pass through heavy residue without plugging; thus farmers are reluctant to adopt conservation-tillage practices. We conducted field experiments over three years at three sites using the same number of seeds row-1 (8 site years) and same number of seeds ha-1 (3 site years) with row spacing of 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, and 80 cm and measured effects on grain yield, grain yield components, straw production, and weed dynamics. With same number of seeds row-1 (seeding rate declined as row spacing widened) the highest average grain and straw yield was achieved with the 40 and 45-cm spacing with gradual decline as row spacing widened due to fewer spikes unit area-1 (SPU) and despite increased kernels spike-1 (KPS). Kernel weight (KW) was not a factor. With same number of seeds ha-1 (more seeds row-1 as row spacing widened) there were no overall differences in SPU, KPS, KW, and straw production among treatments and only a slight grain yield reduction at the two widest spacing treatments. Weeds were not an agronomic problem although weed dry biomass did increase slightly as row spacing widened. Our research shows that row spacing for WW production in the PNW can be widened to at least to 50 cm and most likely 55 cm to facilitate conservation-tillage farming with equal grain and straw production compared to narrower row spacing currently used by farmers.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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