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Narrow Row Cotton: More Yield Per Acre

The Issue

Although California has historically led other states in cotton production, increased production costs and lower commodity prices have led to the need to produce higher yields with lower inputs.

What Has ANR Done?

Field research beginning in the late 1970's showed that yields could be increased by simply planting cotton in rows narrower than the traditional 40 inches. Increases were about 5% for two rows on a 40-inch bed, 10% for 30-inch beds and 10% for 20-inch beds. Since it is impractical to produce cotton on rows any narrower than 30 inches, this became the standard.

Each year, I conducted one or more narrow-row tests in comparison with conventional 40-inch spacing. Various cotton varieties and numerous plant populations were tried. Results consistently showed 30-inch rows outyielding any other row configuration.

The first 30-inch spindle cotton harvester in the world was created in Merced County by converting a conventional 40-inch picker. Results of our tests led both John Deere and International Harvester to produce commercial 30-inch spindle cotton harvesters.

The Payoff

New system quickly adopted by growers

Greater yields from narrow-row cotton have produced an increase of over $3,000,000 per year for growers in Merced County alone. Today, more than 80% of cotton in the county is grown on 30-inch rows.

Other counties have adopted this cultural practice, as have most of the cotton producing states in the U.S. I have given presentations across the US cotton belt as well as in four foreign countries.


Supporting Unit: Merced County

Bill L. Weir, Ph.D.
UCCE Emeritus
3190 Willow Run Dr.
Merced CA 95340