Equipment Management

Table of contents

    Important tips for best management

    • A seeding tool has to be set properly for a grower to achieve the target seeding depth and seed-to-soil contact for all seed rows.
    • For uniform stand establishment under a wide variety of conditions, use a drill that can consistently place seed one to 2 cm (1/2” to 1”) deep.
    • Find a seeding speed that provides accurate seed placement for your drill. Ideal speed varies by the drill and by soil type, amount and type of crop residue, and moisture conditions.  Seeding too fast will lead to variable seeding depth and, thus, variable emergence dates and crop uniformity as well as lower overall plant populations in some situations.
    • Make sure the fan speed is adequate to deliver seed and fertilizer as needed without plugging, but not so excessive that it physically damages seed which can lead to increased mortality. Catch some samples at the opener to check for excessive seed cracking.


    Calibration and inspection

    Growers have a two-step process to ensure a seeding tool performs well enough to meet targets for seed placement. The steps are a pre-season inspection and an in-field inspection.

    Pre-season inspection

    Before going to the field, make sure the drill is level, the air system delivers consistent seed and fertilizer to all openers, and that all openers are in good condition.

    Here is the inspection checklist:

    1. Check all bearings on rollers and auger delivery systems for possible damage. The seed coating on canola can sometimes leave a residue that can penetrate sealed bearings and may cause drag and bearing wear. Bearing wear can lead to slow or inconsistent rotation of the seed delivering system, causing inaccurate or variable seeding rates.
       
    2. Evaluate air stream flow as it relates to fan speed. To do this, take the hose off the last opener on the outside wing and tie the hose to the frame. Check the air tank manual or with the manufacturer for correct procedures for your drill and tank system. Power up the air delivery system to operating RPMs. If seed and fertilizer are propelled less than 30 cm (12") or more than 60 cm (24") from the end of the tube, adjust fan speed or air dampers at the fan outlet to keep seed and fertilizer output within this range. This will reduce seed bounce, damaged seed or plugging at the seed boot outlet.
       
    3. After running the air delivery system, check at the end of each seed boot for seed and fertilizer. If amounts seem uneven, check metering system components for wear.
       
    4. Give all product delivery hoses a quarter turn to reduce wear spots. This will also reduce drag within the hose, which helps maintain accurate seed delivery rates.
       
    5. Even if nothing questionable shows up with inspection point 3, check auger flighting and or fluted roller delivery systems for wear and possible build-up of seed coatings, which can affect accuracy of seed delivery rates.
       
    6. Check seed monitor sensors. Buildup of seed coatings on monitor sensors can affect accuracy. Also, make sure the number of pulses per kilometre (mile) is set properly. Note that tire size, tire pressure and soil conditions can influence sensor performance.
       
    7. Check air pressure and tire size circumference and make sure calibrations reflect these. Tire circumference can differ by 4-8% on the same size tire. Calibrations should accurately simulate the speed of travel, give or take roughly one km/h (or half a mile per hour) as higher speeds require higher rates of product flow per unit time and there may be limitations to the system at higher speeds.
       
    8. Check air tank seals to make sure they’re still flexible and provide a complete seal. Don’t leave air tank lids compressed over winter as this may damage the seals.
       
    9. Do a closer check for air leaks. Apply a mix of water and dishwashing soap around hose connections, manifolds, metering systems and air tank seals. Bubbling of the mixture indicates an air leak. Tighten or readjust seals to stop the leak. Air leaks can lead to reduced pressurization or reduced air flow in parts of the delivery system, which can reduce the accuracy of seed and fertilizer rate and placement.
       
    10. Level the drill. Follow manufacturer’s instructions on where to place the level and how to make adjustments. A laser level may make the job easier.   When the unit is level side to side and front to back, mark all nuts, lock collars, and other adjustment points with a punch or chisel to make it easier to find any changes due to backing off from vibration.
       
    11. Check all openers for excessive wear. Some openers may wear faster than others, especially those that follow tractor or implement wheel tracks. Use wear plates wherever possible to lengthen the life of the main body of the boots. Also find out how much wear is allowable before seed and fertilizer placement is compromised or before plugging is likely in heavier textured soils. Change openers that exceed this level of wear.

      Contact the manufacturer for more specific information on a particular brand of equipment.


    In-field inspection

    Openers, metering systems, and delivery components may be in good shape and the drill may be perfectly level, but factors in the field also influence seed placement. Soil type and soil moisture can influence how much soil rear gangs throw over front furrows, which buries front-row seeds deeper than the seed in other rows. Growers need to make sure the drill is performing as expected to have the same depth of soil over each seed.

    For this test, get a simple seed depth tool. Then follow these steps: 

    1. Start about 45 metres (150 feet) behind where you stopped the seeder or walk over to the previously seeded pass. At one of these two locations, the drill would have been moving at full speed. A seed measurement at these locations should accurately reflect drill performance in terms of seed and fertilizer placement.
    2. Use the seed depth tool to slowly scrape away soil until you reach the bottom of the seed row furrow or where the opener normally places the seed.
    3. Find the seed. Make sure it's being placed at the bottom of the seed furrow. If it's bouncing out, the operator may have to slow the fan speed or slow the seeding speed to place seed where it should be.
    4. Rest the tip of the seed depth tool at the place you found the seed. Eyeball the depth of soil directly over the area you found the seed.
    5. If the same opener is also placing a fertilizer band, make sure the fertilizer is where it should be. If the opener is designed to provide seed and fertilizer separation, make sure that separation is occurring.
    6. Check a number of rows. Make sure the drill achieves the same depth across its whole width and front to back. Again, seeding speed and opener type will influence how much dirt is thrown from one row over another. If all seed is deeper than expected, adjust the drill depth settings.

    If consistent seed and fertilizer placement at the targeted depth cannot be achieved through overall drill depth setting adjustments, try making one of the following adjustments and check again. 

    Check packers.Speed of the tool can affect performance of the packer. If seeding speed is too fast, packers may not completely seal the seed row. If opener width is close to packer width there is potential for packers not to do the job. Packer shape and packer pressure can influence seed depth and seed-fertilizer separation as well. Improper on-row packing can also result in poor seed to soil contact and increased mortality, especially in dry springs.

    With newer drills, adjust packing pressure and frame pressures to help in seed placement and proper packing. However soil conditions and high packing pressure can lead to crusting issues in some situations so it is important to monitor and adjust accordingly. Consult your manufacturer for recommendations.

    Check ground speed and fan speed.See below for more.

    Seeding speed

    There is no single best seeding speed for good seed and fertilizer placement. Each drill is different, and soil conditions and soil type influence performance. If a drill is not performing as expected, slow down by 1.5 km/h (1 mph) and check furrows again using the instructions under the heading above to see if placement has improved. Keep adjusting speed until ground speed achieves accurate seed and fertilizer placement for the drill. Be prepared to alter speeds as soil conditions change.

    If higher seeding speeds are needed to cover the required acres, recognize that seed survival will likely be reduced and increase seeding rates accordingly.

    Fan speed.Higher application rates of seed and fertilizer combined with faster seeding speeds often require higher fan RPMs. This can increase seed damage and  contribute to uneven seed distribution and seed bounce out of the seed row.

    Calibrate the drill for each seed lot

    Seeding equipment must be calibrated to make sure it delivers the desired seeding rate. Consult the operator’s manual for recommended calibration instructions, or utilize the following procedure:

    1. Measure out 30.5 m (100 ft) in the field.
    2. Using a tube sock strapped over the hose end, collect the seed from several drill runs over this distance. Determine the total weight in grams.
    3. Calculate the seeding rate:

    Metric:
    Grams of seed ÷ # of drill runs ÷ row spacing (cm) x 34.14 = seeding rate (kg/ha) 

    Imperial:
    Grams of seed ÷ # of drill runs ÷ row spacing (inches) x 12 = seeding rate (lb./ac.)

    For example:
    If you collect 18.75 g from 5 drill runs, then fill in the formula as follows:

    18.75 g ÷ 5 drill runs ÷ 23 cm row spacing x 34.14 = 5.6 kg/ha

    18.75 g ÷ 5 drill runs ÷ 9” row spacing x 12 = 5.0 lb./ac.

    Adjust the seeder’s metering system and recalibrate until the target seeding rate is achieved. Then be sure to record the settings, as well as the thousand seed weight (TSW) of the seed lot and the seeding rate. The drill should be calibrated for each seed lot to reflect seed size differences. This also provides a failsafe to avoid improper seeding rates resulting from damage or wear to components of the metering system over time.