Research Highlights

Research Highlights
Cultural Change for Row Spacing: Wide vs. Narrow

Photo: United Soybean Board

By Todd Steinacher, Illinois Certified Crop Advisor

There is no right way to farm, however, there have been many methods of farming that have been tried and tested. When thinking about weed control, our industry once relied heavily on mechanical control, which eventually lead to major erosion and environmental impact. When glyphosate-tolerant soybeans were introduced to the market, they allowed for less tillage, reducing environmental impact. Over the past 10 years, chemical controls alone have given Mother Nature the opportunity to evolve weed biology.

In my areas, mechanical control has started to be reintroduced to the acre, which also reintroduced its environmental impact. It’s now time to think about weed control from a true, systems approach that will not only improve weed control but also improve yield and reduce the environmental impact. It’s time to evaluate the “culture control” and how it can improve the full soybean system.


  • Soil erosion: lost organic matter
  • Reduced water infiltration rates
  • Reduced water holding capacity
  • Reduced soil carbon
  • Costs are increasing
  • Success is minimizing


  • Wind speed/drift/volatility
  • Sensitive crops
  • Label restriction
  • Resistance (pre- and post-)
  • AMS no AMS
  • Supply constraints
  • State and federal regulation
  • Spray date restriction
  • Costs are increasing
  • Success is minimizing


  • Cover Crops
    • Reduced marestail and waterhemp
    • Reduced soil erosion
      • Improved soil function which leads to improved soil water infiltration and improved water holding capacity
    • Reduced soil surface temperatures during vegetative growth
      • Less water evaporation
      • Nutrients more available near the surface
  • Narrow Rows
    • Quicker canopy: Will allow for less weed population to emerge that require a late-season herbicide application
  • Early Planting Date
    • Quicker canopy: Improved sunlight capture per acre and improved yields


1. Does your current chemical control system fall short of expectation?
2. Does your current mechanical control system fall short of expectation?
3. Can a new direction with cultural control provide value in your operation?
4. Can a cultural change provide a quicker canopy?
5. Can a cultural change reduce tillage and erosion?
6. Can a cultural change reduce reliance of herbicide AI?
7. Can a cultural change improve your APH, yield & profits?


1. Do not say “I can’t make these changes.”
2. Do your research and homework to see how a new system can work.
3. Visit with your current equipment supplier and seek out new equipment suppliers to learn about new tools to support your cultural change.
4. Get everyone on board for the systems change so that the change will be successful. 

Todd Steinacher is an ISA Certified Crop Advisor Soy Envoy alum and supports ISA on agronomic content as well as serves as an Illinois CCA board member. He earned the 2020 IL CCA of the Year & the 2021 International CCA of the Year. He has over 15 years agronomic experience, currently working with AgriGold, and previously with GROWMARK. He can be reached at

Reprinted from ILSoyAdvisor BlogJuly 22, 2021

Published: Jul 11, 2022