A change to a 12-in. row means a change in equipment. Stine purchased 12-in.-row John Deere and Great Plains planters. Field equipment that drove on the rows were equipped with low-pressure flotation tires.

For combining, he enlisted Marion Calmer, Calmer Corn Heads, to build corn heads for 12-in. rows. Calmer, an Illinois farmer turned manufacturer, jumped at the chance to design the ultra-narrow-row head. He had seen results of narrow-row corn production and is sold on the concept.

“I believe that the path to 300-bu. corn has to go through narrow rows,” he says. “If you plant 30-in. rows with a 50,000-plant population, the plants are just competing with each other like weeds. And if in-row competition doesn’t hurt yield, it will certainly hurt stalk quality. If you can grow it but it falls over, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Corn planted in 30-in. rows at a 50,000-population rate will only be 3.8 in. apart. Contrast that with 10.4 in. of space between plants in 12-in. rows planted at a 50,000-population rate.

But Calmer says the success of this system depends on the right genetics. “Genetic enhancement is as much a key to this puzzle as anything,” Calmer says. “I’m cautiously optimistic that Stine Seed (selecting for narrow-row corn) is one more piece to make the whole system run.”

Calmer says his company is getting more phone calls from growers interested in all types of narrow-row corn production. He is taking orders for 12-in.-row heads. One planned improvement is the addition of hydraulic plates.

The cost for a Calmer 12-in.-row chopping corn head is $10,000/row. Contact Calmer at 309/629-9000, or visit calmercornheads.com.