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Barley Bulk Aids 'Flower Seeding

Saturday, February 2, 2002
filed under: Hybrid Selection/Planting

Barley Bulk Aids 'Flower Seeding

Sometimes things are what they¹re cracked up to be. Just ask Scott


In the spring of 2001, this Kansan employed a simple but ingenious tactic to

avoid uneven plant stands, one of the more-common problems encountered by

producers planting solid-seeded sunflower with an air drill His tool of

choice? Cracked barley.

Schertz, who farms with father Steve and brother Rex near Winona in

Logan County, has always used a 16-row JD 7000 for planting sunflower. He

wanted to try seeding ¹flowers with an air drill, but was concerned about

achieving uniform seed distribution, given the low-volume seeding rate of

sunflower. The bunches and gaps he saw in some other area solid-seeded

sunflower fields, coupled with his own unsatisfactory experience planting

corn with an air drill, made him hesitate.

Last year, however, Schertz decided to solid seed 30 acres of one

sunflower field, with the remainder of the same field planted with his

row-crop unit for comparison purposes. To hopefully overcome the “lack of

bulk” concern, he came up with the idea of mixing his sunflower seed in with

about 20 pounds per acre of cracked barley The volume of the barley, he

theorized, would result in a more-even distribution of the sunflower seeds.

He and his Mycogen Seeds’ representative, Bruce Keiser of nearby Colby,

agreed that first cracking the barley in a roller mill should largely

eliminate any barley germination and ensuing competition with the sunflower.

The sunflower went onto a continuous-cropped no-till field which had

been in corn during the 2000 season and in wheat the previous three years.

Two weeks prior to planting, Schertz sprayed the field with a tank mix of

glyphosate, Spartan and a light rate of 2,4-D.

Aiming for a sunflower seed drop of around 23,000 per acre, Schertz

mixed the ‘flowers and cracked barley in his feed truck and then augered the

blend into his Great Plains 2220 air tank. After calibration, he went out

and planted the 30 acres with his NTA3510 no-till seeding implement set on

7.5-inch centers.

Despite the difference in test weight between the sunflower and the

43-pound barley, Schertz witnessed very little separation, either in the

tank or out in the planted field. The resulting plant stand was uniformly

consistent, he reports, with virtually no bare spots or bunching of

sunflower plants. While the first round was planted too deep, he adjusted

to a half-inch seeding depth for the reminder of the 30 acres. Quick

germination and emergence produced an excellent plant canopy and good

suppression of any late-emerging weeds.

That entire dryland sunflower field averaged more than 2,300 pounds per

acre. Schertz says the 30-acre solid-seeded portion “was as good as, or

even a little better” than the row-crop acreage.

The western Kansas producer plans to repeat his “bulked up” sunflower

seeding experiment again in 2002, and may even increase the percentage of

sunflower acreage planted with the air drill. He is still somewhat

concerned by the thinner stalks resulting from the higher population with

the solid-seeded ‘flowers (23,000 versus 18,000 on the row-crop acreage).

Schertz also is mulling going with cracked oats this spring rather than

barley. While the barley worked well, he thinks the oats, whose lower test

weight is closer to that of sunflower, may work even better. If he does

stick with the barley, he believes he can reduce its volume down to 10 to 15

pounds per acre and still achieve similar results. -Don Lilleboe

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