What is Required to Have Success with Rainfed Skip Row Corn?.
Robert Klein1, Drew Lyon1, David Baltensperger2, Alexander Pavlista1, Charles Shapiro1, Stevan Knezevic1, Stephen Mason1, Lenis Nelson1, Mark Bernards1, Roger Elmore3, Alan Schlegel4, Merle Vigil5, Norman Klocke4, and Steve Melvin1. (1) University of Nebraska, West Central Research & Extension Center, 461 West University Drive, North Platte, NE 69101, (2) Texas A&M University, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, College Station, NE 77843-2474, (3) Iowa State University, 2104 Agronomy Hall, Ames, IA 50011, (4) Kansas State University, Southwest Res. Ext. Center, Rt. 1 Box 148, Tribune, KS 67879, (5) USDA-ARS, Central Great Plains Research Station, 40335 County Rd. GG, Akron, CO 80720-1029
Rainfed corn (Zea mays L.) yields in the northern High Plains can range from 0 to 8,740 kg/ha or more. Since 2000, many producers in this region have experienced low, unprofitable yields as a result of severe, persistent drought. Research on skip row planting of corn, which has been conducted since 2003, suggests that this approach can reduce the risk of complete crop failure as a result of drought, but results have been variable. Why have the results been so variable? Many factors enter into the equation. These include yield potential, timing and amount of rainfall, and crop residue levels. The use of small plot equipment and frequent foot traffic for data collection in these experiments frequently resulted in very low levels of crop residue. Many farmers with good crop residue levels have had better results than some of the research plots might suggest. Observation and research results indicate how important crop residue levels are in rainfed corn production in the northern High Plains. Crop residues reduce the E (evaporation) in ET (evapotranspiration), leaving more soil water available to the crop. Research with irrigated corn in the area has demonstrated up to 10.16 centimeters of soil water loss through evaporation on bare soil as compared to soil with 80 to 100% crop residue cover. Most of this soil water loss occurs before canopy closure. Even if the skip row system conserves water, it will be at a disadvantage with minimal residue since we usually do not ever get canopy closure in the skip row system, especially with the plant-two skip-two configuration.