An old concept that is showing new merit is the planting of corn in clumps and clusters instead of traditional rows. Kansas State research has shown a slight corn yield increase and a reduction in water use by planting corn in clumps or clusters instead of traditional 30 inch rows.

The clump pattern features three plants growing from a traditional “hill” while the cluster pattern has six plants in a row. Both clumps and clusters are in 30 inch rows with a 39 inch gap between plant groups. Staggered clumps in adjoining rows.

In the clump and cluster systems plant arrangement changes the microclimate of the leaf by shading and breaking the wind. This lowers vapor pressure differential and reduces water loss through transpiration. To take best advantages of this system avoid bare soil between clumps either with a good layer of crop residue or mulch to prevent water evaporation. Another approach would be to plant beans and/or some squash in the skips between clumps or clusters of corn. Native Americans made this system work, perhaps you can too.