Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2000.
One of the hot topics during last January’s National No-Tillage Conference dealt with the the pros and cons of adding seed coverers or seed firming attachments to a no-till planter or drill.
Here’s a rundown on what attendees at the Des Moines conference had to say, along with comments received to a similar question posted on our No-Till Farmer Web site.
The Keetons press seed in loose soil while the Rebounders hold seed in the furrow. The Rebounders work better in wet conditions as the Keeton attachments can get sticky in wet soils.
—Philip Pinch, Brandon, Wis.
Someone torched our Machine shed in the Spring of 1998 and the first thing I did when I bought a used no-till planter was to add Keeton seed firmers with the starter fertilizer tubes. They make a tremendous difference.
—Larry Tombaugh, Streator, Ill.
Both no-till planter attachments were discussed at length during last January’s No-Till On The Plains Conference in Salina, Kan.
Farmers said the Keeton seed firmer presses the seed into the bottom of the seed slot for improved seed-to-soil contact. The Rebounder keeps seed from bouncing out of the seed slot and pulls dirt from the sides of the slot to cover the seed. Both units can be installed with liquid fertilizer hose connections.
From the information I acquired and the demonstrations I saw, I’ll order Keeton seed firmers for my no-till drill and add the Y-Not-Split-It liquid fertilizer hose from the Rebounder people to place liquid fertilizer on the side of the seed trench rather than dribbling it on the seed.
—Jerry Morgenstern, Hoisington, Kan., firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve used Keetons on our 12-row narrow-row planter for 2 years. Due to the possible loss of Fortress insecticide, we’re removing our Smart Box system and switching to Regency, a liquid-applied insecticide. We’ll add the latest Keeton units which have liquid application tubes.
When we dig behind the planter, the seed environment is as good as we can hope for. As soon as seed leaves the seed chute, the Keeton firmer is on top of it and there’s no chance to “rebound.” When all sides of the seed are making seed contact and are pressed into the soil, that’s as good as it gets.
With the Rebounders, the seed was confined to the slot, but it could lay crossways and have air pockets both underneath and above. This resulted in less population due to “aired-out” seed that did not germinate.
—Jim Royer, Clay City, Ind., email@example.com
Not So Sure.
I’ve used Keeton seed firmers for two seasons and I’m not sure they’ve helped my corn stands much. I was disappointed with the instruction literature as it was vague on how to adjust the firmers. If adjusted incorrectly, I suspect they drag some of the kernels and that may lead to poor seed spacing.
—Merritt Seefeldt, firstname.lastname@example.org
I had problems with the Keeton units last spring with a John Deere 750 no-till drill.
—Wayne Oosterhoff, Dunnville, Ontario, email@example.com
Zone Till Worries.
My Keeton seed firmers collect mud behind my Rawson zone-till system. In fact, I’d like to learn more about the Rebounders.
—John Schmidt, Ocheyedan, Iowa
Both Have A Place.
Results from a survey of other growers who’ve used one or both seed firming and covering units seems to point out that both have a place in no-tilling.
A number of no-tillers indicate the Rebounders have worked well with John Deere planters while others prefer the Keetons.
One farmer who has tried both prefers the Rebounders, as he’s seen less seeds left on top of the rows with these attachments. While his planting speed is above the preferred 4 1/2 mph, he’s found less seed tube damage with the Rebounders.
A machinery dealer reported good results from installing Keeton units on a Kinze no-till rig. He’s also used them successfully with Great Plains no-till drills and a John Deere 1520 drill used to no-till soybeans, alfalfa and wheat.
Some farmers feel your preference may depend on your own cropping conditions and situation. Discussions with farmers about the Nu-Till planter system indicate the extra length of the Keeton seed firmer may be a bonus when used with Martin spiked closing wheels.
Still others report problems from wearing out the bottom of the Keeton units so they no longer properly fit the seed trench. Another farmer added Rebounders which seemed to place less stress on the seed tubes.
At some winter planter clinics, farmers say the Keeton length was a concern. In addition, some farmers feel the unit’s contact with the ground may lead to seed tube vibrations and seeding problems.
Some farmers feel the decision on which attachment to use boils down to how your no-till planter is set. Since factory-installed closing wheels don’t work well with some no-till planters under wet conditions, other farmers feel it’s better to separate seed firming and furrow closing requirements. Since the Rebounder is not classified as a seed firming unit, closing wheels on a no-till planter must be capable of seed-to-soil contact.
No-tillers who’ve attended recent strip-tilling seminars say some farmers have reported seed firmers can force seed deeper than intended in mellow strip-tilled soils. Others have concerns with the Keeton units damaging the seed.
With no-till drills that run over 5 1/2 mph, some farmers believe the Rebounders work best. At slower no-tilling speeds, the Keeton units may work better.
One farmer at the National No-Tillage Conference suggested checking the tension on the firmers when they are in the operating position if seeding at over 5 1/2 mph. He believes pressure of 2 to 2 1/2 pounds works well at higher planting speeds.
Another attendee at the National No-Tillage Conference plans to install Keeton seed firmers on regular corn rows and use Rebounder seed coverers on the interplant rows with his no-till planter.
Other no-tillers report good success with Keeton units on no-till planters to effectively firm the seed while using Rebounders on their no-till drills to improve stand establishment. They credit the Rebounders on no-till drills with letting them to place seed more precisely and reduce seeding rates.