When the Battle River Research Group bought its five-foot wide drill 10 years ago, it came with basic no-till discs. These openers worked fine, but had limitations in heavy trash conditions. Since most farmers in the area had moved to direct seeding and zero-till management, the Forestburg, Alta.-based research group wanted its plot work to “reflect what farmers are doing out in the field as much as possible,” says Alvin Eyolfson, manager of BRRG.
Moving to a hoe-type opener was the goal, but getting there proved a little challenging. The limitations on plot-scale equipment can sometimes create issues, Eyolfson says. For example, with
only six openers and at five-feet wide, the seeder is only capable of gravity flow delivery. An air seeder isn’t an option. As such, the seeder set up and opener choice is limited to some degree.
“We had to modify the drill, raise it, change the hydraulics and put on new shanks and packers,” he says. When it came time to choose an opener, BRRG evaluated both Technotill and Atom Jet openers.
“We ran both openers side by side on plots and found seed and fertilizer placement were similar,” Eyolfson says. “They both did an excellent job.” The final choice of opener, however, came down to the packers.
Technotill openers use a spring-loaded skid plate to pack a thin, firm layer of moist soil over the seed. It has no packer wheels. (BRRG notes that Technotill and Atom Jet donated the openers, and New Holland donated the shanks and packers.)
“We’re in a clubroot area. We don’t have clubroot in any of our plots or fields, and we plan to keep it that way. We’ve been carting around a pressure washer for years now, spraying down the seeder after every field,” Eyolfson says. Packer wheels tend to bung up, filling with trash or muck in wet conditions. They’re just plain more difficult and time consuming to clean out, he says.
In addition to easing clean out between fields, moving away from discs to the Technotill openers has opened up the group to new research and demonstration capabilities, Eyolfson says.
“Previously, we couldn’t really run fertilizer trials. It was always “worst case scenario” because all fertilizer was placed in a narrow band,” he says. Now they can evaluate different rates and different products because of seed and fertilizer separation.
And while more trial opportunities are a good thing, Eyolfson stresses the change over really is about duplicating what farmers in the area are doing. “Our plots now reflect what most farmers are doing in the area, and that’s the goal.”
Lyndsey Smith is a Grainews field editor
based in Lumsden, Sask. Email her at [email protected]