The debate about seeding canola with an air seeder versus planting canola with a row crop planter has pretty well died down, with planters sneaking in as the unofficial winner.
In 2017, Pioneer seed dealer Keith Nachtegaele wanted to see for himself if the planter advantage was as great as some people have been claiming in recent years.
The co-owner of Nachtegaele Agri Services in North Battleford, Sask., had just bought a new Horsch Maestro SW, so a trial comparing the planter to his Bourgault 8910 would be a good test of the new machine.
Nachtegaele did side-by-side trials, putting down 4.7 pounds of seed per acre with the paired row drill. With the planter, he did trials at two lb. per acre.
“Yields were very comparable,” he said.
“Of the three reps, the drill was two bu. better in one. In the next rep, the Maestro was two bu. better. In the third rep they were exactly identical.”
He said that with seed around $13 a pound, the cost saving pencils out to $35 per acre with the Maestro.
“If I was using one of the high end drills like a SeedHawk or SeedMaster, I probably would have cut those rates back somewhat from 4.7 lb.,” he said.
“The precision would have given better emergence than my 8910.”
In addition to the side-by-side trials, Nachtegaele also did broad acre fields with both machines. He put down 700 acres of canola with the Maestro at two lb. of seed per acre and another 1,500 acres with the Bourgault at 4.7 lb. seed per acre.
“On the big acre fields, maturity was a factor,” he said.
“Fields done with the planter were evenly mature so they were a lot easier to swath. Plant spacing in the row was very uniform, every two inches to 2.5 inches apart, compared to the drill, which had more seeds so the plants were closer.
“With the planter, I also did a couple strips at 1.5 lb. of seed per acre and at one lb. of seed per acre. They all yielded fairly well. The 1.5 lb. strips were about the same as the fields with two lb. They yielded only two bushels less than the fields with two lb.
“Yield on the strips with just one pound per acre dropped by another two bu., which isn’t bad. They were big healthy plants, but they took too long to mature. And there were a lot more weeds because of the wide spacing between plants. I wouldn’t seed that light in a regular field. You could get away with one lb. seed per acre if everything was perfect, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”
The Maestro was equipped with the new Canola Ready Technology kit, including the new discs and metering components.
He said there were no real problems, as long as he used the correct sized seed. A seed that’s about five grams per thousand or bigger is required, which eliminates doubles in the row. He notes that smaller sized seeds would get stuck in the hole, creating skips in the row.
Whether you buy four gram seed or a seven gram seed, you’re still putting down one seed every two inches. Cost per bag is the same, but you get fewer seeds per bag with bigger sizes. Bigger seed should result in a healthier plant.
Fertility can be an issue with a planter. Nachtegaele said you have to figure out a way to meet your fertility requirements either before or after seeding because you can’t put much down through the planter. He does a lot of in-crop top dressing with 28-0-0 liquid, he added.