Before filling the seed tank and heading to the field in the spring, producers need to give seeding drills a thorough inspection to make sure everything is in top condition and capable of accurately placing seed.
What should you look for? “There are a number of things,” says Blaine Metzger, a project manager at the Alberta Ag Tech Centre at Lethbridge.
Checking for wear on seed openers is a good place to start.
“If the edge is worn, the seed is exposed to the soil sooner,” he explains. “It (seed) may not be at the bottom of the seedbed (when it emerges), and it could mix with the soil and cause variations in depth.”
But deciding how much wear is too much depends on several factors. Producers may have to rely in part on their experience with their own equipment. That is what makes manually checking seed placement so important. Knowing how a drill performs with a given amount of wear is essential.
“Some (openers) will work pretty good until they wear out completely,” says Metzger. “Some with only 15 to 20 per cent wear will compromise seed and fertilizer placement. No one opener is going to work in every condition. It’s trial and error for every farmer to see what works.”
Garth Massie, a corporate agronomist with Morris Industries, recommends producers ensure tire pressures on castor wheels are checked. Inconsistent pressures can affect the level of seeders with gang sections, like those in Morris’s Maxim line. That will cause seeding depth variations. Producers need to ensure fan speed is set correctly. Setting it too high can cause problems on some drills, he says.
Metzger agrees and notes keeping fan speeds as low as possible is generally a good idea. “There is almost never a time you want higher fan speeds,” he says. Among other problems, higher air velocities increase the potential for seed damage. The coating on a seed can get damaged from impacts with other kernels or by hitting seeder components, such as line splitters, too fast.
High fan speeds also cause seed and fertilizer to come out of the openers more quickly, which could lead to a higher likelihood of mixing on some double-shoot opener designs.
Finally, Grant McLean, a crop management specialist with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture recommends producers make a careful inspection of product delivery hoses, looking for wear, kinks or any other obstructions. Worrying about seed placement is a waste of time if product can’t get to the openers.