How do you get the high quality and yield of ultra-narrow-row cotton without the trash discounts that result from stripper harvesting?

You could start with a precision twin-row planter to plant two rows of seed 7.5 inches apart on a wide-row bed and use the same harvester you use for your wide-row cotton.

The twin-row planting configuration, sometimes called double-row Western cotton, or California ultra-narrow-row, not only canopies quickly and keeps plants short, but it also allows producers to cultivate during the season if necessary and to spindle pick.

The latter cuts back on the biggest disadvantage of traditional ultra-narrow-row cotton: automatic discounts — albeit not always deserved — for removing extra trash at the gin.

A twin-row planter made especially for cotton is now available through ATI Inc., Monosem, Lenexa, Kan. “Twin row planters have been around for six or seven years now, primarily for peanut planting,” explained Paul Wood, ATI's eastern territory manager.

“This past year, we modified the peanut planter for cotton.”

They accomplished this by redesigning the closing wheels and squeezing the spacing down from 9 inches to 7.5 inches. The planter can be used to plant cotton, soybeans, grain sorghum and corn.

The Monosem Precision Pneumatic Planter, “is a vacuum planter with a stainless steel seed disk and cast aluminum housing, so you get the right spacing,” Wood said.

The planter also staggers the seed placement in the two rows, creating a checkerboard planting pattern, rather than two straight planting lines. “It gives each plant a little more soil and sunlight.”

Studies indicate that twin-row planting, “resulted in a 7 percent to 15 percent yield increase and a quicker canopy than single-row planting. Growers also use less chemical and have better water usage,” Wood said.

The planting system also keeps plants shorter, which can affect quality. “Shorter plants mature faster — up to two weeks earlier than single-row cotton,” Wood said. “Since weather can be a critical issue, harvesting the cotton earlier can mean the difference between success and failure for a farmer.”

Studies by Cooperative Extension agents Steve Husman in Arizona and Bill Weir in California backed up the company's yield and quality observations.

Weir conducted studies on the farm of Daniel Burns, at San Juan Ranches in Dos Palos. Cotton was planted 8-10 inches apart and harvested with a spindle picker. Yields were increased an average of 8 percent and costs were reduced $50 per acre compared to conventional single row, 30-inch cotton.

Weir did not find significant differences in fiber quality in those tests, but Husman did in his research in central Arizona, in which high micronaire varieties were tested. At Maricopa, the micronaire was reduced from 5.0 and above to 4.9 and below for twin-row versus single-row.

At Glendale, it went from an average of 5.1 for single-row cotton to 4.6 for double row. In Marana, it went from 4.7 to 4.5.

“It's no secret that some of the Stoneville varieties we grow in Arizona tend to be high micronaire, yet they are yielding animals,” Husman said. Growers want to cooperate with us using some of those varieties to see if they can get micronaire below the discount level.”

High micronaire was also a significant problem in the Delta in 2001.

Each Monosem planter is built to the specifications of the farmer purchasing the machine. Farmers can choose the row spacing and the attachments. Delivery is usually within four to six weeks of the order, according to the company.

The twin-row unit also has chemical boxes for granular insecticides. The capability for variable-rate seeding with GPS is an option.

For more information, call Paul Wood at 913-439-1700, Ext. 112, or visit website, www.monosemplt.com.

erobinson@primediabusiness.com