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5 Easy Steps to Calibrating Your No-Till Drill

An important but often overlooked step in seeding, drill calibration is easy to accomplish and can prevent wasted seed, lost time and frustration.


Pictured Above: SEED CAPTURE. A plastic baggie attached to the seed tube collects seed during drill calibration. This method involves driving the drill 150 feet, which takes much less time than seeding an acre or more to assess seed usage.

One of the biggest challenges with any crop is getting it established. 

While the most impactful factors that affect success are probably weather, planting conditions and growing season, certified forage consultant Brendon Blank of Ixonia, Wis., says seeding at the right rate is also important for success and can be difficult with a drill. 

If not enough seed is released, the stand may be too thin and yields can suffer. If too much seed is released, you can run out of seed and costs can soar. 

A common approach is to put a few bags of seed in the drill, plant an acre, figure out how much is left and adjust from there, Blank says. But that method is time consuming, not very accurate and can lead to unexpectedly running out of seed.

Most grain drills have a seeding chart that is a good starting point for setting the seeding rate, which will be based on the species or mix being planted as well as the distance between the disc openers. 

But a few factors, such as wear-and-tear on the parts over the years, seed size and the presence or absence of a seed coating can cause a drill to release more or less seed than the setting indicates. So…

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Julia gerlach web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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