New drill takes multi-tasking to the max

One frame fits all | Different machines attach to Ag Systems’ master frame, saving producers money

The Ag Systems drill has all the bases covered.

It can switch between no-till drill, double disc drill, shank drill, strip till, corn planter, tillage tool, aerator and coulters for sizing corn residue.

The frame is engineered to allow all these in-ground options to be switched quickly. The operator simply pulls one mounting pin for each row, removes the current tool, slides the next tool into place and then replaces the pin.

The obvious economic benefit to producers is that they can buy one frame that performs many field functions.

While some drills have seed bed utilization (SBU) as high as 50 percent, the Ag Systems drill with a 10 inch wide ribbon on 15 inch centres has 66 percent SBU.

“That means we cover 66 percent of the field with crop,” said North Dakota inventor LeRoy Richard. “No other drill comes close to that.”

Higher SBU generally results in higher yields, he added.

In a recent side-by-side trial, Larry Wall of Jamestown, North Dakota, used his John Deere 1890 on 7.5 inch row spacing to seed 1,200 acres of wheat at a rate of two bushels per acre.

Richard seeded an adjacent 40 acres with the Ag System drill at a rate of four bushels per acre.

“It was a pretty good year for wheat. We hauled to the elevator to check the yield monitor,” Richard said.

“Larry got 68 bu. to the acre. Our drill got 110 bu. to the acre. It’s all got to do with seed bed utilization.”

The system is in the fourth generation of design, and Richard said it’s now ready for market.

He said he was prompted to pursue a new design because the shank type drills he was familiar with pull back when they hit an obstacle, changing the geometry of the opener and the direction in which the seed moves. Designers of other drills have never compensated for that geometric glitch, he added.

“But we do compensate for it. If the shovel hits the bevel of a rock, that opener will go vertically straight up in the air 16.5 inches. So the opener is operating with the correct geometry before it hits the rock and the correct geometry for good seed placement when it gets back into the soil.”

Richard said most producers had trouble last year getting their chisel plows into the ground, but the farmer who bought the first 30-foot prototype six years ago was running it seven to eight inches deep.

“Our shank system uses a heavy duty parallel linkage. You can go from zero trip pressure to 5,200 pounds of trip.”

Richard said he studied the relationship between the soil and the speed of the opener before starting to cut and weld.

“Let’s say you’re seeding and heading straight east at six m.p.h.,” he said.

“The ground is going past that opener at a rate of 8.8 feet per second. It’s as if the ground is heading west past the opener. Our opener fires the seed out at a speed that’s very close in proximity to the speed at which the ground is going past. And in the same direction the ground is going by. You don’t get seed bounce and you don’t send the seed up into dry dirt.”

Richard said equalizing the speed of the seed and the ground means that it’s as if the seed isn’t even moving but merely drops into the trench.

A Manitoba producer who studied the Ag Systems drill when it was on display at a farm equipment show in Minot said it uses a wide sweep and distributes seeds almost a foot wide, almost like a narrow Noble Blade.

He noted that the wide opener could work well on lighter soils, but may have difficulty in wet clay.

The soil may stick to the very flat sweep, making a trench even though the opener has leveling disks. It should be fairly good adding fertilizer while seeding. The sweep is attached to a parallelogram with a very wide packing wheel for independent shank depth control. In principle, it’s similar to many narrow openers with independent depth control.

Richard said the new drill has also benefited from changing recommendations for phosphorus fertilizer.

“Phosphorous doesn’t move around in the soil like nitrogen. It doesn’t do well in a tight band,” he said.

“The universities now are telling us we need to put that phosphorus about three inches deep but spread it out as far as possible. I think we’ve got the only machine that can do that.”

The Ag Systems opener is built like an under cutter. While most sweeps have a 60 or 65 degree angle, Richard designed his sweep opener with an 86 degree angle.

The opener has six rear-facing orifices, providing a uniform spread of 10 inches for seed and fertilizer.

Richard emphasized that it’s what happens inside the body of the opener that’s most important.

It took a lot of work to configure the internal chamber so each of the six holes has the same cubic feet per minute of air under all conditions.

“No matter what kind of seed or fertilizer you put down and no matter how much air you put through it, you always get the same volume and the same pattern out the back,” he said.

“There are no pockets or bands with a concentration of seed or fertilizer. That means you can put 100 units of N down with the seed and other fertilizer in a single pass and not burn it (the seedlings). It’s all about spreading the seed and fertilizer over a wider area so you have no concentrated areas.”

Richard said most drills pack the seed trench with 12 to 15 pounds pressure, but the Ag Systems drill uses only 3.5 lb. per square inch.

“We want to just barely seal up the surface to hold the moisture inside. We do not want to compact the soil around the seed,” he said.

“Seed needs air. If you pack with 12 pounds, you squeeze the air out. You eliminate the pores in the soil. Studies in the northwest a few years ago showed that germination is better when the seed has room to breath and contact the vapour in the soil.”

The drill has out-performed corn planters in side-by-side trials without seed singulation, but Richard said the only way he could convince corn growers to consider his machine was to offer his own singulator.

“All meters on the market today can only run 48 to 50 seeds on the plate at a time. One revolution gives you 48 to 50 seeds,” he said.

“There are a lot of inherent problems when you start spinning that conventional disc faster. Underneath the meter you’ve got the tube with a three or four inch opening. A seed coming off at 3 o’clock enters the tube at a different spot than a seed coming off at 6 o’clock. And that’s where you get the skips and doubles.”

Most row units can handle only 30,000 to 35,000 plants per acre because of that design flaw. And planting speed is limited to 4.5 m.p.h. to keep deviation in check.

The recently developed Ag Systems’ singulator is designed to handle 84 seeds per revolution of the plate.

In simulated trials, Richard has put down 200,000 plants per acre, with good singulation, at a ground speed of 5.5 m.p.h. Field trials will begin this summer.

“Our seed tube is only a half inch in diameter. When the seed comes off the meter, it’s already in the tube. Deviation is very slight.”

The optional twin disc opener enables twin row corn on 30-inch centers or 7.5 inch row spacing for solid stand soybeans. On twin row corn, the singulator staggers the seeds to lessen competition between the rows.

The drill rides on heavy duty walking tandems front and rear, giving a smooth ride and better depth control in rough field conditions.

Richard said the drill works with any air cart. The price is $140,000 plus optional tools.

Contact Richard at 701-799-0288.

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