Setting Up No-Till Drills, Air Seeders For Success

Taking a hard look at your equipment and seeding practices can lead to better emergence and higher yields, says ag consultant Phil Needham.

When no-tillers have problems maximizing yields, the cause can often be traced back to the start of the growing season, when no-till drills and air seeders started making their passes.

Equipment setup, ballast requirements, disc blade conditions, down pressure and planting speed are critical considerations sometimes overlooked, says ag consultant Phil Needham of Calhoun, Ky.

Below are several tips Needham shared during last January’s National No-Tillage Conference that could help no-tillers boost the performance of their no-drills and air seeders.

Watch Your Weight

To achieve consistent emergence and high yields, it’s important to get all seeds to the same depth — preferably pressed into moisture — and to close the slot, Needham says.

If a no-tiller is facing higher levels of residue — for example, when seeding double-crop soybeans into wheat stubble — moisture may be deeper because the wheat has probably drawn some of the moisture out of the upper soil profile, Needham says.

“So you seed deeper to penetrate through the residue and to put the soybeans consistently into moisture,” he says.

Seeding deeper might require adding some weight to the drill or air-seeder, especially when the ground is hard or the residue is tough, but Needham often finds his customers aren’t taking this action.

“For every mile per hour you increase forward speed over 5 mph, it takes another 10% additional down force — and that’s cumulative — to keep your opener in the ground,” he says.

Monitor Speed

Machine speed can have a major impact on…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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