Grains Research and Development

Date: 22.11.2013

Broaden thinking on narrow rows

Author: Natalie Lee

researcher Peter Newman, left, GRDC western regional panel deputy chairman Mike Ewing and chairman Peter Roberts

From left, researcher Peter Newman, left, GRDC western regional panel deputy chairman Mike Ewing and chairman Peter Roberts at the Mingenew trial site in June, 2013.

A trial in Western Australia’s northern grainbelt has confirmed that narrow row spacing can boost wheat yields while acting as an important non-herbicide tactic to out-compete weeds. 

“Results from this trial and previous research suggests that farmers will benefit from using the narrowest row spacing practical, and I believe this should be a consideration if they are thinking about upgrading machinery,” researcher Peter Newman said.

Mr Newman, a communications leader with the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and based at Planfarm, coordinated the trial funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and supported by the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA).

“The trial at Mingenew supports research results from around Australia that there are significant and incremental yield benefits for every 1cm reduction in row spacing when wheat yield potential is higher than 1.5 tonnes per hectare,” he said.

“These yield benefits are believed to be due to reduced competition between wheat plants within rows, and plants better intercepting available sunlight in paddocks.

Two images: the left with closely-spaced rows and shadows between the plants; the right image has wider-spaced rows, with sunlight hitting the ground between the plants.

Trial plots with 15cm (6"), compared with plots with 30cm (12") row spacing at Mingenew in 2013. More light is hitting the ground in the wide row spacing plot.

“Narrow row spacing (15cm apart) trial plots at Mingenew outyielded the wider row spacing (22cm and 30cm) by an average of 0.24t/ha.

“Previous research has shown that narrow row spacing – in combination with high seeding rates – suppresses weed numbers and weed seed set by increasing crop plant density per square metre.”

Mr Newman said wide row spacing remained common across WA’s grainbelt for various reasons, but new machinery innovations were making it more practical to shift to narrower row systems.

“These newer machines can handle higher amounts of stubble and ensure good herbicide safety,” he said.

Mr Newman said that as well as comparing different row spacing, the Mingenew trial tested different single row, paired row and ribbon seeding systems and different seeding rates (60, 90 and 120kg/ha).

Paired row sowing was achieved by using a deep working knife point and winged boot that created paired seeding rows 75mm apart – effectively doubling the length of crop row.

More information about the trial results will be presented at Perth’s Agribusiness Crop Updates, supported by the GRDC and DAFWA, on February 24-25.

Details will also be available in the January-February edition of the GRDC magazine Ground Cover, which will be available at www.grdc.com.au/groundcover

Information about the use of narrow row spacing and higher seeding rates to improve crop competitiveness against weeds is available at www.weedsmart.org.au

WeedSmart brings together industry organisations including the GRDC, research providers and major crop protection companies to deliver the message that herbicide resistance is a difficult but not insurmountable problem.

ENDS

Caption: Trial plots with 15cm (6"), compared with plots with 30cm (12") row spacing at Mingenew in 2013. More light is hitting the ground in the wide row spacing plot.

Caption: From left, researcher Peter Newman, left, GRDC western regional panel deputy chairman Mike Ewing and chairman Peter Roberts at the Mingenew trial site in June, 2013.

Contact Details

For Interviews

Peter Newman, Planfarm
08 9964 1170, 0427 984 010
petern@planfarm.com.au

Contact

Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
nataliel@coxinall.com.au

Media releases and other media products can be found at www.grdc.com.au/media-news

GRDC Project Code PLN00008

Region West