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Innovative Drill Attachment Aids No-Till Seeding

Friday, December 1, 2000
filed under: Equipment

New Drill Attachment Improves No-Till Seeding

A new attachment designed by USDA scientists promises to improve performance of seed drills for growers who want to use no-till planting techniques.

While no-till seeding improves water use and reduces erosion, even drills designed for the practice are not without problems. In heavy residue, plant material can lodge on the seed drill's furrow opening shank, and get dragged along as the equipment moves forward. Piles of residue up to 4 feet long and 1 foot high can spill over into the adjacent seedbed, smothering seedlings as they try to emerge.

USDA researchers in Pendleton, Ore., set out to make existing seed drills more effective. By reducing problems with the drills, they reason that more farmers will adopt no-till practices.

The new device (see photo) consists of a fingered rubber wheel, a rubber inner ring, and a spring loaded arm which pivots about vertical and horizontal axis. The unit is designed to attach to the tool bar of hoe-type no-till drills and positioned so that the inner ring is approximately one half inch away from the furrow opening shank.

During seeding, the ground-driven rubber fingered wheel and inner ring hold down and “walk” through crop residue, preventing it from building up on the shank and seed tube. They also help control soil disturbed by the furrow opener so that it stays within the seed row, explains Mark Siemens, a lead researcher in the development of the attachment at the Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center, Pendleton, Ore.

When clumps of crop residue build up between the wheel and the shank, the arm holding the wheel is able to rotate away from the shank, causing the pile of crop residue to dislodge. After swinging out, the wheel will naturally track back into its operating position, close to the shank. The wheel has adjustable, spring loaded down pressure and vertical height adjustment.

A prototype has been tested over the last two years in eastern Oregon, where narrow-row crops like wheat with heavy residue are common. Experimental plots were seeded with a hoe-type drill with one side of the drill equipped with the residue management wheel, the opposite side without. After seedlings had emerged, stand counts were taken and recorded. Results showed that seeding with the wheel attachment increased the number of seedlings 10 to 50%, depending on field conditions.

Whether stand count differences will result in significant yield increases is yet to be determined, but it does suggest units approximate $300 per shank cost may be economically justifiable on seed costs savings alone.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has applied for a patent on the attachment, which is available for licensing (Patent application 09/594,659).

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