Kit converts beet, corn planter to canola

Prairie-built disc kit helps canola growers manage seed spacing and singulation

Despite the recent flurry of interest in turning old corn planters into dedicated canola planters, most farmers are limited by cost and availability of the necessary parts.

But the efforts of two farmers from Lettlier, Man., may soon change that. Their Red River Valley (RRV) Canola Disc is a relatively low-cost kit that converts old JD vacuum planters into a dedicated canola planters.

The RRV Canola Disc company consists of just two young farmers, Jeff Calder and Kerry Cadieux, working in their shop and experimenting with ways to improve performance in of their old JD beet planters.

To date, they’ve only compared plots on their own farms and at nearby neighbours. They’ve focused their efforts on reducing seeding rates without harming yields.

In side-by-side trials since 2004, they have used seeding rates of five pounds per acre through the air seeder and 2.5 pounds per acre through their home grown RRV Canola Disc planter. In test after test, the yield has come out about the same, meaning there is a net saving of 2.7 pounds of canola seed per acre.

Although a larger crop wasn’t their goal, the vacuum planter plots have sometimes experienced a slight yield advantage over the air seeder plots. The best advantage so far has been a seven bushel benefit in favour of the modified JD beet planter.

In the tests the company conducted, the RRV Canola Disc conversion kit saved seed, provided better in-row spacing and better seed depth control than an air drill.

As well, a growing body of research from all canola-growing regions shows that singulation, which means metering out one seed at a time into the seed tube, is critical in growing a good crop.

And the price is less than buying a new planter just for canola or buying one of the established higher cost conversion kits on the market.

The RRV list price for the new disc only, is $70. Each complete row unit with the disc and knockout wheel is $100. That’s about one-third the price of the leading supplier for these kinds of specialty parts.

The developers of the RRV Canola Disc said their proximity to the Red River and 49th parallel means their family farms had once been in the hotbed of sugar beet production. When Manitoba’s sugar beet plant shut down 20 years ago, some of those beet planters went on to plant corn, and a small handful went into canola duty with the original 45 hole beet metering discs.

Calder said he and Cadieux tried putting canola seed through metering disks intended for sugar beets on their old JD vacuum planters. But with only 45 tiny holes per disc, seeding canola with beet metering discs was frustrating because of the slow speed at only three m.p.h.

Their first major development step in a new canola seed disc was to double the number of holes from 45 to 90, allowing speed to nearly double. The other significant problem with the old metering disc was the teardrop shape, which worked well with sugar beet seeds, but messed up the perfect singulation, which they knew was required for a top performing canola crop.

“For now, we’re only making kits for John Deere vacuum planters, like the 7200 MaxEmerge II and newer,” said Calder.

He said the discs will be significantly different for the latest MaxEmerge planters, for which he and Cadieux plan to design new canola disc kits.

For more information, contact 204-324-3135 or visit

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