Production Blog

Are Diamonds Forever?

By Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
One of the fun things about farming for Bob Wieland is testing new concepts and showing it off to grandsons, Isaiah and Titus Stoller. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Last summer I visited a field of diamonds near Laura, Illinois. Bob and John Wieland and Tom Bauman tested some new soybean planting patterns in 2015. The farming team typically plants in 30-inch rows, but since narrow rows are all the rage, they decided to try a few different planting configurations without adding additional equipment.

I wrote about these crisscross and diamond-designs in an earlier blog post and several readers have asked how the practices turned out.

The west-central Illinois farmers divided their 160,000 plants per acre populations (ppa) in half and planted 80,000 ppa one direction and came back on a 30-degree angle to the original row with another 80,000 ppa. They also tried the crossed planting technique at a 90-degree angle. The idea was to see if the planting pattern closed the rows sooner. The hope was to limit weed pressure and gather in all the sun has to offer a little faster than 30-inch rows.

Bob agreed that the crossed-up soybeans pattern engaged a lot of eyes and interest early in the season. He said the 30-degree angled field yielded 87 bushels per acre (bpa) and averaged 5 to 8 bpa more than their other fields. "We were worried about losses from the sprayer running over them, but that didn't turn out to be an issue," he said.

Bauman said it was a good soybean crop overall with the farm averaging around 80 bushels per acre. He thought the 90-degree crossed pattern turned out to be harder to harvest because they lodged where the rows intersected more than the more angled, diamond pattern.

"We picked a lot of green beans last year," he added. "We planted on time and don't know whether it was fungicide, cool season or what it was. At times we were crawling through the field at 2-3 miles per hour, but we experienced that in all the beans, and I don't think it was caused by patterns we planted," Bauman recalled.

These farmers will likely try the 30-degree angle on some more acres in 2016. The yield increase balanced out the extra time and fuel cost from the second pass across the field. Trying new ideas is fun and keeps farming interesting, Bob said. Diamonds may not be the way to big riches, but their goal is to find economic ways to thread the profitability needle without adding a lot of extra expense.

Pamela Smith can be reached at Pamela.smith@dtn.com

(AG)

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Roger Cooper 3/13/2016 | 1:21 PM CDT
Been planting no-till narrow rows for 30 years, Bob. Easiest cutting beans ever. Just drive any direction that works better. Set the angle and push the button! Life is better!