BOX SEAT. Tony Peirick uses a 1996-vintage 30-foot box drill on his Wisconsin dairy. For a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, his operation didn’t have a box drill at all, but with the advent of cover crops, it’s become essential for him and others.     Photo by Tyler Wollitz.

Amid Agricultural Shift, Box Drills Re-Emerge

Cover crop adoption and simplicity of use are leading to increased demand.

Cover crops are pushing some very old dogs to learn new tricks

Dealers and ag equipment company agronomists say they’ve seen box seed drills — one of the earliest pieces of ag equipment ever invented — make something of a comeback in recent years. Companies have updated box drills with precision equipment originally invented for air seeders, amid increasing demand pushed by ramped-up adoption of small-seed cover crops.

The western incarnation of the box drill dates to 1701 and English agricultural pioneer Jethro Tull, though older versions were employed in China and India.

Mike Hanson, sales manager at Wisconsin-based Lindstrom Equipment, a dealership with two locations, said he’s seen an increase in demand for box drills in some fields, particularly for small grains.

“Traditionally, a lot of farmers that wanted a box drill were picking them up out west,” he says. “They got them from traditional wheat country and brought them back here. They were probably the first guys to get into today’s cover crop scene.”

“Cover crops have come to the forefront of importance, along with additional foodstuffs for dairy farms and heifer growers,” Hanson adds.

Some of the change-over has been driven by thrift, Hanson says.

In the Midwest “traditionally the air drill has been a little more expensive, a little harder to calibrate with certain seed types like alfalfa,” he says. “You can get them all to plant accurately. But it takes a little more finesse with an air drill.”

However, Hanson and others have seen marginal…

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Brian o connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor started at Lessiter Media as the Lead Content Editor for Conservation Agriculture in November 2021. He previously worked in daily print journalism for more than a decade in places as far flung as Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he shared a national award for coverage of two Category 5 hurricanes that struck the islands in 2017. He's also taught English in Korea, delivered packages for Amazon, and coordinated Wisconsin election night coverage for the Associated Press. His first job was on a Southeast Wisconsin farm.

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