In the industry, there are a lot of canola producers that are interested in and playing around with planters, says Rob Fagnou, marketing specialist at Bourgault. “(They’re) trying to get their (seeding) rates down as low as possible and control them at low rates to reduce their costs. And we also see more corn and soybean production coming up into more northern areas.”
With that in mind, Bourgault has decided to wade into the planter market. Hence, the introduction in June of the brand’s newly designed air planter, a blend of its air seeder and planting technology merged into one. One of its main benefits is it allows growers to use the same implement for planting large-seeded row crops like corn as well as seeding small grains and oilseeds, meaning producers don’t need to invest in two separate machines.
“The whole idea of the planter is to incorporate our existing seeding systems to have planter technology,” says Fagnou. “We were able to incorporate some ideas that have been around for quite a while, but modify them and incorporate our own design into it to make it work as, essentially, an option now for either hoe drill or Coulter systems.”
Making the air planter system available on either a shank or Coulter drill means Bourgault will occupy a relatively unique spot in the planting equipment marketplace. And it claims similar accuracy between what the company’s new shank openers can achieve compared with a standard double-disc planter opener.
“We think it is quite possibly the first shank-style air planting system,” says Fagnou. “You can get the air planter (on any Bourgault opener) and use it reliably for planting or volumetric seeding.”
And Bourgault has also developed a new Coulter opener designed to work with this system.
“We developed a new Coulter opener that works quite well with the air planter,” he says. “It’s a sister drill to our 3720 and we call that one the 3820. We went to a single disc. The gauge wheel on the outside is right up against the seed opener. The packer wheel is no longer part of the seed depth setting. It’s just spring loaded on the back. So, all of the seed depth is set by the cleaner wheel right beside the disc.
“The planter boot aims the seed to a firmer wheel. The firmer wheel is right inside the furrow. That’s one of the ways we get good separation with large seeds like corn. It basically aims the seed right into where the firmer wheel meets the soil that catches the seed and holds it in place,” he says.
The air planter is essentially an option, adds Fagnou. “Whether you purchase the 3820 Coulter style drill, or if you buy the 3335 with one of the shank-style openers, you can get the air planter with it also. Although this year we do have a limited release on it as well, because it’s quite a new product for us. We’re going to have about 12 units available for sale for the 2021 model year, work closely with those owners and make sure everything is working well. We want to make sure we walk before we run with it.”
The system can accommodate both the wider row spacing common to corn as well as typical narrower small grains row spacing.
Double-shoot product delivery system
The air planter is designed to work with a double-shoot product delivery system, so a starter course of fertilizer can be placed with the seed. Unlike dedicated planters, Bourgault’s air planter allows a producer to put down a full granular fertilizer application through the mid-row banders for true single-pass planting.
“We worked on developing our own meter, the XP meter, and also the bulk fill system,” Fagnou says. “We still have our metering augers, nothing has changed there. But essentially there’s an inductor box that mounts underneath the sump of the metering auger. We just open that gate up and turn off the metering auger and it flows through into the inductor box. Air then comes through, picks up the seed and carries it through to another inductor box on the drill, which will then distribute it out to each of the seed columns. There is a feed column that fills up and acts as a reservoir for each meter and delivers the seed down to the openers.”
Rather than vacuum, the Bourgault system uses positive pressure to hold seed in the singulation discs.
“What that does is not only hold the seed to the plate, but also push the seed down the delivery pipe to the opener,” he says. “Instead of having a meter directly above each opener, now we have them along the front and back of the frame so they’re easy to access. But because of the positive pressure, you still get good, even seed separation all the way down to the opener.”
The meters are driven by electric motors that allow for turn compensation and sectional control on each row. The brand claims a 99 per cent accuracy rate on corn, 98 per cent on soybeans and 97 on canola.
“In canola it’s more challenging,” says Fagnou. “We found that we were able to achieve 97 per cent singulation accuracy. Corn is more up to 99 per cent on singulation accuracy. But when it comes to seed spacing, with the nature of canola seed being so small, gravity, friction against the tube and seed bounce creates more variance in the spacing. Testing alongside leading planter systems on the market, we see they (all) run into the same challenges with canola.”