Wide row production systems potentially offer opportunity for cost savings in regards to seed purchases and picker operation. They may also afford advantages in mid-season dry conditions, since individual plants may have a larger reservoir of soil from which to draw moisture.
Conversely, wide rows may also improve airflow late in the season and thereby reduce boll rot and hard lock.
In the past we have observed experiments with 72 and 60-inch rows. Both appeared too wide to capture sufficient resources for yields comparable to standard row spacings.
With significant cooperation from personnel at the Brewton Research Unit (BRU) and the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center (WREC), we evaluated the performance of cotton planted in 48-inch rows compared to the standard 36-inch spacing.
Two varieties, DP 2055 B3XF and PHY 400 W3FE, were planted in 48-in and standard (36-inch) rows and managed with 3 PGR regimens, aggressive, moderate and untreated.
We made two errors: at both locations, plant populations were equivalent on a per acre basis rather than the intended plants per foot basis, thus negating the opportunity to lower seed costs by a third. At BRU, the two row patterns were planted in adjacent, separate blocks which prevents a direct statistical comparison of the two systems.
In terms of measured growth and lint yield, varietal differences were more common than row spacing effects. Yields were comparable for both row spacings. The DP variety produced significantly higher yields than the PHY variety at WREC. At BRU in the 48-in rows, the DP variety produced superior yields to PHY.
That yields were not sacrificed in wide rows is encouraging. If similar yields can be achieved with identical down-the-row seeding rates, significant savings can be gained.