BRANDON — The idea of seeding canola with a corn planter isn’t new, but it is taking a step forward as a Kansas manufacturer takes their Maestro SW into full production.
Horsch’s Jeremy Hughes says a small number of the high-tech planters found their way on to farms in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta a few years ago. These were early production models.
Now that the factory is scheduled to crank out Maestros until April, there should be enough supply to meet pent-up demand.
“Planting canola with a corn planter is nothing new anymore. But we wanted to learn more, so we got competitors’ corn planters that are being marketed as precision planters to handle canola,” says Hughes.
“We tinkered with them and tested them and studied them. And we found they don’t do what farmers have been told they’ll do. They are not true precision canola-seed placement machines.
“Planting canola is all about seed mortality. Mortality is always high. With air seeders especially, the mortality often starts right at the meter. Some meters are very harsh. Then look at the air delivery system with all the dead heads, turns and plumbing. Seeds are fractured before the get into the soil.”
Hughes says the Maestro SW planter has fewer transition spots and is gentle with seeds.
A venturi system sucks seeds out of the tank and fills the seed cup. On each row unit, a vacuum behind the disc pulls the seed into position. As the disc rotates, it drops the seed into the seed trench.
He says during a full-field seed mortality test at Langdon, North Dakota, last year, they used a Maestro on 22-inch centres, and compared it to a farmer using a John Deere 1890 no-till air seeder on 10-inch centres.
The farmer had knifed in anhydrous the previous fall and put down granular starter mix with the seed.
Horsch put down liquid starter mix with the seed and planted 2.5 pounds of seed per acre. The farmer seeded six lb. per acre.
“We cut his seed rate by more than half. And we achieved a three percent better yield.”
Hughes says mortality is caused by the air delivery system, but also by poor depth control and poor seed placement. He says the Maestro avoids this by using a double disc opener with gauge wheels on both sides. Packing is an independent component, not related to the depth gauge.
“Depth control is one of the advantages we have over independent shanks. The seed drop point relative to the depth gauge point is critical. With independent shanks, distance from the seed drop point to the depth gauge point might be afoot or more.
“That system cannot compensate for surface deviations. Plus, a gauge wheel only works when it turns freely. In muddy, sticky conditions, it clogs up and gives wrong depth readings. It lays your seed on surface.”