Seeding Innovations Dominate At Farm Progress Show – for Jul. 23, 2010

This year’s Western Canada Farm Progress Show at Regina had no shortage of new equipment to showcase. And nowhere was that more apparent than when it came to seeding technology. All the familiar manufacturers in attendance had new features to offer, but there were also a few new faces offering their take on how to best put seed in the ground.

Here’s a look at some of what show goers were able to feast their eyes on.

SEEDMASTER

SeedMaster, a company that is no stranger to Prairie farmers, unveiled its new UltraPro canola seed metering system centre stage at its booth. This system is designed to provide an even metering rate for smallseeded crops like canola. “Each roller drops a steady flow of about 25 seeds per second directly into the delivery hoses leading to each individual row opener,” says Norbert Beaujot, company president.

The steady flow avoids the clustering of plants that some metering systems create in fields because of the pulsing manner in which they deliver small seeds.

The UltraPro uses narrow, quarter-inch-wide metering rollers to do the job. Each opener has its own roller that feeds seed into a dedicated line which does not have to pass through a random splitter. In this way, the new metering system builds on one of SeedMaster’s design strengths.

But the company isn’t content to coast on its newest metering achievement; it is pursuing true seed-singulation capability. “Singulation means planting seeds one at time in the soil, spaced perfectly apart, as if you were doing it by hand,” Beaujot says.

According to a press release, the company may have a true singulation metering system market ready within two years. The company’s intention is to have one machine capable of singulating several seed types including canola, soybeans, corn and sunflowers. That would eliminate the need for farmers to have more than one seeder.

Currently, seed singulation is common in large-seeded crops like soybeans and corn, but, so far, no one has mastered it for smallseeded crops.

SEED HAWK

Seed Hawk introduced several new options available on its existing equipment along with a new tool bar design: the model 45. This drill folds into a tight 4.5-by-4.5- metre height and width for easy road transport. It is available in widths up to 50 feet. Marketing reps say the compact version was created to allow the company to also offer it to European farmers, who face tight road transport restrictions, but it offers an advantage here, too. It will make moving between fields easier for Prairie farmers who have to travel on narrow secondary roads.

A new labour-saving, hydraulic, bag-lift option is available on the company’s seed carts for 2011. It eliminates the need for manually lifting seed bags up to the top of the cart; it can be retrofitted onto older models. Also available as a retrofit is the Vaderstad metering system gearbox, which offers improved accuracy and ease of adjustments. It can be installed on any Seed Hawk drill back as far as the 2005 model year. For a two-tank cart, the cost of the Vaderstad update is about $2,500 or $3,500 for a three-tank model.

But the new conveyor option is what will catch the attention of farmrs looking to reduce in-field refill times. Company president Pat Beaujot says that in field trials the conveyor, which is available on the 800 Series carts, shrank loading times to only 26 minutes. It’s a $22,000 option.

BOURGAULT

Bourgault had its model 3710 disc drill on display. The independently- linked design uses a Barton 21.5-inch coulter disc assembly rather than a shank and is available with two different seed openers that double as disc scrapers. The low-disturbance openers allow a farmer to tailor a drill to dry conditions, while the anti-hair pinning version does a better job of dealing with heavy trash cover.

The anti-hair pinning option also allows for deeper fertilizer placement and helps create a black strip of earth above the seed row to speed up soil warming.

The walking-beam design of the packer-gauge wheels allow for more accurate depth control, which allows the drill to follow ground contours more closely. Both opener designs reduce soil disturbance. According to company reps, that allows for a wider range of operating speeds. “We’re working toward equipment that’s going to provide a good seedbed at higher speeds,” says Bourgault’s Rob Fagnou.

On the opposite side of the coulter disc from the seed opener, a rubber packing wheel also acts as a scraper to keep the disc clean while firming the seedbed. Openers can be repositioned to compensate for disc wear by loosening three attachment bolts and repositioning them.

To complement the 3710’s mid-row fertilizer banding system, the Barton openers are capable of double shooting to add a starter course of fertilizer into the seed row. “We see some good results with that,” adds Fagnou.

PILLAR LASERS INC.

Another drill manufacturer using a variation on the same Barton coulter design is the fledgling Pillar Lasers Inc. But rather than use active hydraulic down pressure like Bourgault’s 3710, this arrangement uses a single spring to create downward pressure, minimizing hydraulic demands on a tractor. Downward pressure and opener depth can be adjusted quickly without tools. A lever attached to the linkage is used to set depth. The seed and fertilizer separation distance is also adjustable.

The Laser openers can be retrofitted onto a Flexi-Coil 6000 drill, however the company is now offering its own toolbar. It uses a central walking beam design to improve contouring and lifts all the openers using a parallel-lift sub frame, further minimizing hydraulic complexity.

The company had one working prototype of its toolbar in the field this year, and it is ready for a limited production run to have up to 10 units ready for the 2011 season. The 40-foot working width of the toolbar can be reduced to 33 feet by removing end sections. Nine-, 10-and 12-inch row spacings are available.

MORRIS INDUSTRIES

Morris used the show to introduce its new overlap control system, which allows an operator to shut off seed and fertilizer flow to half of the drill via an in-cab control. “The half Air Cart Meter Shut- Off is Morris’s response to growers who’ve been asking for efficient ways to reduce input costs,” says Randy Ellis, director of North American marketing and sales.

The system uses a simple arrangement of two hydraulic cylinders to control metering gates at the roller. Each cylinder controls one half of the metering width. The company has publicly announced there will be further enhancements to flow control in the future. “Morris overlap control will move to full section control. The more control, the more benefit to the grower. It’s not too far down the road,” adds Ellis.

Although seed flow to half the drill can be stopped, all shanks remain in the ground. That prevents the drill from skewing during overlap seeding.

And Morris, too, has responded to producer demands for faster refill times by adding a new 60 bushel-per- minute conveyor option on its Eight 650 cart. Including one will add about $17,000 to the unit’s overall price tag.

SALFORD

Ontario-based Salford had their 520 tool bar on display equipped with a heavy-duty, no-till disc opener. The independently linked, double- disc design uses paired 15-inch discs and a Keeton Seed Firmer to place seed and ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Depth settings can be changed in -inch increments by simply repositioning a pin.

Downward pressure is controlled by a spring rather than hydraulics, and each opener’s pressure can be set individually. For example, pressure for those working in wheel tracks can be set higher to compensate for firmer soil conditions. Just like adjusting depth, downward pressure changes only require resetting a pin position. No tools are necessary.

The 520 system offers a variety of options to fine tune seeding performance to each farmer’s needs. “With us, it’s what (design features) do you want,” says Todd Botterill Salford’s Manitoba sales rep.

Salford’s three-hopper seed cart is available with four tank sizes from 110 to 185 bushels, all using the same chassis, and it is capable of double shooting. “We can redirect the air flow to blend (product) on the go,” says Botterill. The control system is ISOBUS compatible.

AMITY TECHNOLOGY

There was also an Australian presence at the show. Amity Technology, a long-established U. S. company, displayed its Amity single-disc drill, which was designed and patented by Australian farmer Chris Jones. Jones was on hand to discuss the drill’s design advantages.

He says the drill was the result of his attempts to find a machine that could cope with the variable soil on his farm. The single-disc Drill can do that and operate at very high speeds. “We sow (in Australia) at 20 kilometers per hour,” he says. The drill won several Australian agricultural design awards.

Part of the reason the drill can operate at higher speeds is the discs are designed to throw soil against each other, rather than over top of adjacent seed rows. The pneumatic packer wheels then flatten it back down. “So, it leaves a level field. You can go quite fast,” adds Jones. The long arms give the opener linkages a 4:1 ratio, which helps them easily follow soil contours, minimizing bounce. The active hydraulic down pressure can be adjusted on-the-go from the tractor cab.

The drill requires only minimal daily maintenance. There is only one fitting on the disc and one on the packer. “In Australia, we’ll do 1,500 acres on one grease,” says Jones. The control system is ISOBUS compatible.

The drill is available in 30-, 40-, 50-and 60-foot widths. It uses paired six-inch seed rows placed nine inches apart. One packer wheel covers both adjacent six-inch seed rows. It uses mid-row fertilizer banding and has double-shoot capability. The company also offers carts available in 280-, 350-and 525-bushel capacities.

SIMPLICITY

Finally, Simplicity, Australia’s largest manufacturer of seed carts, had one of its models on display. These tanks offer single-, double- or triple-shoot capability and can blend any desired percentage. Mechanical ground drive is taken from the left rear wheel to turn the metering system. Electric actuators on the rollers make full VRT control possible. If there is a problem with the VRT system, however, the cart can continue to seed using standard ground drive metering until replacement parts arrive, which helps minimize down time.

Cart capacities range from 290 to 2,000 bushels, and they are compatible with any of the North American seed drills. “We have no hesitation putting one of our carts behind one of them,” says Mark Simpson, sales manager. “We do it all the time in Australia.”

“We’re here to gauge response from farmers and dealers,” explains Simpson. The company is hoping to establish a dealer network and begin retailing it’s carts to Canadian farmers.

ScottGarveyismachineryeditorforGrainews.

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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