Planter precision cuts canola cost

REGINA — An Alberta farmer has spearheaded research that may help canola producers increase yields and reduce costs.

“For the guy with the precision air drill, he can still do a bad job of seeding canola by going too fast or having too much air or too much (fertilizer) going down with the seed,” said Craig Shaw of Lacombe.

“I wondered about 50 percent mortality (in canola seedlings). If we could refine the planting process, maybe we could save a pound or two on the rates by keeping more plants alive.”

Shaw convinced Alberta Canola and some partners to buy a planter that is typically used in the U.S. corn and bean belt and put it to work on farms and at Agriculture Canada’s research facility in Lacombe.

“If we can even up the canola crop, have it not compete with itself for nutrients and stunting out and killing smaller seedlings and generally be more efficient in our production, it might be five bushels more (yield) and save a couple of pounds of seed. Is that $70 dollars an acre, or more?” he said while attending Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina.

“We are trying to find that out using the planter.”

Agriculture Canada researchers and Lacombe area farmers are working with a heavy duty Monosem planter. It is 12 feet wide and set to 15 inch centres.

Shaw said researchers and producers are learning how to use the machine in Canadian stubble and trash.

“It’s new to us,” he said.

Brian Sieker of Monosem said farmers have used vacuum planters for years to seed canola in the southern United States, where it is grown as a fall seeded crop.

“It’s not a large crop (in the U.S.), so the expertise is limited in canola. So having it being used in the home of canola is big,” he said.

The Monosem planter’s metering system can handle crops with large, irregular seeds such as kidney beans as well as seeds that are smaller than canola.

The disc type planter uses swap-pable discs, and the canola unit, which is more typically used with onions, has 90 holes per disc.

A fan driven vacuum holds the seeds to the disc plates and a brass knife peels the seed from the disc and drops it down a gravity seed tube into the furrow, which is created by a single Ingersoll disc with a gauge wheel for depth control.

“It’s very simple, very low maintenance and very precise. We custom build them so we are looking at different options for putting fertilizer down,” said Sieker.

Each seed run has its own seed pot and is independent from its neighbour, unless it is paired for twin row planting.

A gas-filled, coil over type shock helps the seeding unit follow the soil’s surface.

Fertilizer delivery for single pass planting can be accommodated, but Sieker said the system is usually paired with liquid and anhydrous for midrow banding with a frame-mounted coulter.

“We are set up to accept in-row fertilizer, including dry and liquid products, like Alpine, but we leave the fertilizer delivery to the producer,” he said.

The planter system in Alberta is still being refined.

Researchers are experimenting with different row spacings.

“I am thinking a 15 inch spacing might be good and with a twined row system,” Sieker said.

“It canopies in well and still leaves good room at the ground for air movement to keep disease down.”

He said the ability to do precision planting, without high airflows and battering from fertilizer and distributor turns, should result in more evenly maturing crops.

Sieker said trash managers and different closing wheels will be in place for canola planting next season in Canada.

More trials this fall in Colorado and in the southern and midwestern U.S. will benefit from what has been learned in Alberta.

Shaw said the system seems to be working well this season, “but everything looks good this year. We’ll know more at the end of harvest.”

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