The expansion of corn production into non-traditional growing regions has been one of the hottest topics of conversation in prairie agriculture for some time now. But for many producers, the cost of purchasing additional equipment to grow that crop has been one of the reasons they haven’t yet tried it.
Air drill manufacturer SeedMaster believes it has a viable alternative to spending all that cash on additional machines to get the job done. The firm’s dedicated corn meter, which is designed to work with the existing on-frame granular tanks on its drills, is now available.
“We’re able to use our existing tanks and have a meter that is designed to direct seed corn in a no-till application,” says Owen Kinch, SeedMaster’s field research manager. “The corn meter can meter to every opener or every second opener.”
Using only every second opener on a drill with 15-inch row spacing allows farmers to harvest a stand using a 30-inch combine corn header. And although management at SeedMaster isn’t claiming their meter can exactly match the singulation capability of a planter, their field results suggest it can come pretty close. And with seed lines routed directly from the meter to the openers instead of through distribution towers, marketing reps say seed survival rates are very high.
“On these meters the rotational direction is reversed,”Kinch continues. “So it’s scooping the (seed) over the top of the meter and dropping it down into the chute. It drops into the venturi tube and goes directly to the openers without going through any towers. We’re seeing definite advantages by eliminating the towers. We’re increasing the seed survival where almost every seed germinates and grows into a viable plant.”
In the field
So how do crop stands planted with the drill and new meter really compare to those from a planter?
The company is in the second year of comparison field trials to determine just that. Yield results from the first year of pitting a SeedMaster drill with the new meter against a commercially-available planter showed the drill gave the planter a run for its money.
“This year we’re running a number of trials where we’re putting the SeedMaster on 15-inch row spacing against the SeedMaster on 30-inch row spacing, against a John Deere vacuum planter on 30-inch row spacing,” says Kinch. “This is the second year for these trials. In the first year, the vacuum planter out-yielded the SeedMaster by 3-1/2 per cent.”
But there may be more to consider than just absolute yield numbers. When the advantages of using an air drill — which most western farms already need — are factored in, the new metering system may actually offer an overall advantage over a planter, particularly if farmers can only expect a yield advantage in the low single-digits with a planter.
The most obvious advantage is farmers can avoid spending money on an additional implement just for corn planting. The smaller the number of corn acres in a rotation, the greater this advantage becomes. And when direct seeding, the cost of pre-working fields and the time it away takes from the precious spring seeding window are eliminated. No-till corn seeding gets it into the ground early, which could be an advantage in regions where available corn heat units are at a premium.
“Where we see the benefits to this meter is it allows growers to use existing equipment and be able to direct seed corn into standing stubble,” says Kinch. “There are many advantages to seeding directly into the standing stubble. We’re not committed to having to pre-work that ground. We’re eliminating that pass. So instead of out there working that land, we’re seeding it. Also, at that same time we’re applying the full nutrient requirement to that crop for the season in that same single pass.”
But while yield results from one year are valuable, more research is still required to reliably compare yield differences. So SeedMaster will continue with field-scale seeding comparisons to accumulate more data, allowing growers can make informed financial decisions.
“This year we have it on approximately 10 farms,” Kinch adds. “A number of growers are conducting trials against other air drills and other brands of vacuum planters as well.”
For a video look at SeedMaster’s corn meter, check out the e-QuipTV video at grainews.ca.