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New opener means faster seeding, no hairpinning

This farmer is impressed with a disc system that works through all crop residue and adds 25 per cent more acres seeded per hour

Retrofitting one wider seeding tool bar with newer, simpler disc openers has made it possible for Jody Klassen to eliminate a second air seeding system and cover more ground in a day on his north central Alberta farm.

This spring will be the second year that Klassen, who crops about 5,400 acres of grains and oilseeds near Mayerthorpe, northwest of Edmonton, Alta., has gone to the field with a unique Flexicoil 7500 tool bar equipped with Pillar Disc Hoe Drill openers.

Klassen says the simpler, low maintenance design of the double shoot opener does an excellent job of placing seed and fertilizer, easily works through crop residue and allows him to travel faster.

“With other systems maybe you can seed at four to five miles per hour, but this works well at up to 6.5 miles per hour,” he says. “And with the extra width I can seed 20 to 25 per cent more acres per hour and still get accurate seed placement.”

Klassen had been using two older Concord drills one equipped with Dutch openers and the other with low draft Atom Jet openers. Both were paired row seeding systems.

Simplify seeding

To simplify the seeding operation, Klassen bought a 70-foot Flexicoil 7500, and replaced all shanks with the Pillar Disc Hoe Drill openers. “It is a not a fully independent link system, but is about two-thirds of the way there. It is one of the few, if not the only one like it in Western Canada. It does a nice job of seeding and really improves my seeding efficiency.”

He has set up the system with two air tanks, one forward and one behind, with a total of six compartments. Along with the seed, the two tank system can blend fertilizer in the field.

The Pillar Disc Hoe Drill opener was designed by Dick Friesen, president and founder of Pillar Lasers, a welding and fabrication company based in Warman, Sask. (Find more information at www.pillarlasers.com.)

Friesen who worked for another seeding system manufacturer in the past, began working on design of the Pillar Disc Hoe Drill opener about seven or eight years ago and has been manufacturing them for about six years.

“It is loosely based on the Barton disc opener, but is much simpler in design and for maintenance,” says Friesen. “It is a very accurate seed placement system, it can operate at higher speeds which is what farmers like about disc systems, but we have eliminated the issue of hairpinning in crop residue.

“We’ve kept it simple — there are only three moving wheels. It has very good wearing ability, but if you need to service it, you can dismantle any component in one to two minutes, whereas with the original Barton system it could have been a one to two hour job.”

Unique design

Friesen says the Pillar system is the only double shoot disc system, certainly within the price range. Fertilizer is applied through the disc as it cuts through the soil and is placed about 1.5 inches below and to the side of the seed row. The seed comes down through a wing beside the disc. Seed exits through the back of the wing directly onto the seed bed. Just above the wing is a heavy duty plastic or polymer plate referred to as the seed ski that holds soil in place over the seed until all is firmed up by the packer wheel. An easily accessible gauge allows producers to set and lock in depth control using the packer wheel.

“The system has very accurate seed placement and is packed on row, and leaves a very nice finish to the field,” says Friesen. “It looks good, but also makes it much easier at harvest to have a nice level field.”

It is the design of the double shoot system that eliminates the hairpinning problem with crop residue, he says. The system can work through any height of stubble, even tall stubble left behind from a stripper header, without hairpinning.

While the opener can be adapted for certain makes of tool bars, Friesen has begun manufacturing his own system. He is already making a 40-foot seeding system and will be field-testing a 58-foot wide seeding system this spring.

“Farmers like wider systems to cover more ground,” he says. “While we are not as wide as some manufacturers the fact that a producer can seed at higher speed does increase seeding efficiency.”

The opener works equally well with all seed sizes ranging from grass seed to the large pulse crop seed. And the disc system also works very well for seeding into sod, says Friesen.

Other changes

Along with the new seeding system, Klassen is simplifying seeding plans for 2012 and dropping peas out of the rotation this year. He’ll divide his farm between wheat and canola. Generally, since he’s had good success with peas, he plans to include them in rotation in 2013.

With the new seeding system designed for variable rate technology (VRT), he also will be introducing VRT to about 10 per cent of his farm in 2012. Working with long-time crop consultant, Geoff Doell of Growth Agronomics of Westlock, he’ll be using variable rate fertilizer application with canola seeded on wheat stubble.

“It is somewhat expensive to get started with VRT, so we are starting with just a portion of the farm,” says Klassen. The fields selected have had repeat soil testing over the years — site specific testing that is geo-referenced, so they have tested the same areas for several years. Along with yield data, they are also looking at the history of tissue testing of crops on these fields to help in developing the fertilizer prescription.

“You might say we are bit old school in that we’re not using all the reference mapping that some VRT prescriptions use,” says Klassen. “But we feel this will give us a good handle on productivity of different sites where we are using VRT. Initially we are going to focus on nitrogen, since it is a key nutrient and then look at other nutrients as we go.”

Klassen, who farms northwest of Edmonton, says timing of seeding is critical in his area — the earlier the better. In an ideal year he’d hope to be seeding by April 25 although often it is first week of May. †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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