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30 Years Ago

Thursday, February 1, 2024
filed under: Historical

        Homemade Air Seeders Fit High Plains Operation / By Don Lilleboe —  “Several years ago, John Wyrill decided the assortment of hoe drills and row-crop units used to plant the wheat, sunflower and other crop’s in his family’s High Plains farming operation needed to be replaced.  Simplicity was the goal: one type of planter to seed all their crops.
        “Wyrill wanted to travel the air-seeder route, but he was not keen on purchasing tow-between seed tanks.  Nor was he enthused about the overall length of the commercial air seeder systems incorporating a tow tank.
        “His solution?  Four custom-built air seeders, each sporting a 100-bushel seed box constructed above the rear wheels of the Steiger 4WD tractors that pull the seeders through the Wyrill northern Kansas/northeastern Colorado fields.
        “Metering rolls, rather than a distribution manifold, feed the seed into individual row hoses at the bottom of the seed box.  A fan mounted beneath the Steiger Cougar ST 280’s engine forces air back to the slotted divider box and into the seed hoses.
        “ ‘Regardless of the crop being planted — wheat, sunflower, corn . . . whatever — the only item we need to adjust is the speed of the metering rolls,’ Wyrill points out.  ‘The metering rolls drop the seeds into the slots in the dividing box, and the airstream sends them back through the seed tubes.’
        “There are 44 of the 3/4-inch plastic hoses on three of the Wyrill air seeders; 56 on the fourth.  That corresponds with the 44- and 56-foot working widths and 12-inch row spacings of the respective seeders.
        “White chisel plow farmers carry three offset ranks of seed openers and closing wheels — one set ahead of the caster wheels and two behind — in a parallel linkage setup.  ‘We changed the chisel plow’s heavy trip spring to a lower-tension spring so the row units would flex individually [over a vertical range of] about seven inches,’ Wyrill explains.  ‘The press wheel controls the depth of the individual row.’
        “Depending on the field situation, the air seeders will be equipped with either double-disk seed openers (normally used on conventionally tilled fields) or chisel points (used under no-till or other heavy residue situations.  Wyrill plans to seed quite a bit of his 1994 sunflower crop into no-till ground, so will be using the chisel points on those fields.”
        Holding the H2O at Bay / By Don Lilleboe — “The 1993 season aside, insufficient soil moisture is — year in and year out — probably the key yield-limiting factor for most Great Plains sunflower producers.  And in these days of heightened consciousness regarding the importance of moisture conservation, more and more dryland farmers have taken significant steps to retain as much snow and rainfall as possible.
        “Wes Tossett is among them — for the most part.  Tossett refers to himself as ‘a minimum-till producer with the emphasis on residue retention for moisture management purposes.’  And he does keep plenty of stubble on the knolls and ridges of his farm near Lansford, N.D.,  about 30 miles south of where the Saskatchewan/Manitoba boundary meets the U.S. border.
        “But when it comes to moisture in his fields’ low spots, Tossett bends over backward to keep the water at bay — up on the higher ground where it fell and where he wants it to stay.
        “ ‘The most productive, valuable parts of my farm are those low areas,’ the Bottineau County farmer emphasizes.  ‘If I can stop moisture right where it falls, so it doesn’t run into my low spots, I’ll always be able to farm those spots.  What I want to do is keep the stubble on my hilltops and ridges so it collects snow and prevents runoff.’
        “Tossett’s formula calls for 10- to 12-inch grain stubble on his knolls and slopes — and little or no stubble in low elevation areas.  He’ll actually work the low areas in the fall with a tandem disk to lessen their snow trap capability.  ‘I’ll even take my subsoiler and make two or three rings around there so the water can’t run in,’ he notes.
        “Since his main concern is moisture elevation, Tossett wants horizontal — not vertical — straw on his fields when the spring thaw arrives.  ‘As far as water retention, it’s much more effective lying down,’ he says.  ‘That cuts down on evaporation, it’s cooler — and if any moisture falls, the flattened residue will hold it there.’ ”
        No-Till Sunflower in Northern North Dakota: No Simple Task / By Don Lilleboe — “Though still a young man, Randy Henke is a seasoned veteran when it comes to no-till crop production.  In 1994, the Sawyer, N.D., producer enters his 15th year of no-till farming.
        “Like many no-till producers, Henke started experimenting with the system on a quite limited scale, gradually expanding its scope on his farm.  His initial motivation was soil conservation; but ‘it didn’t take too long to figure out that day-in and day-out, no-till does a better job of catching and holding moisture,’ notes Henke, who is vice president of the Manitoba-North Dakota Zero Tillage Farmers Association.
        “About two-thirds of the Henke farm was under a no-till system by the late 1980s, ‘and the last tillage that was done around here took place in the spring of ’89,’ he says.  While his highest-yielding crops during the ’80s weren’t always off the no-till ground, ‘what kept me coming back year after year was the fact that the no-till fields were always in the top 20 percent of my “net-dollar” fields, he indicates — ‘even though I was still learning “by the seat of my pants,” ’
        “Henke says one misconception shared by many people is that ‘no-till’ automatically translates into increased use of herbicides and other chemicals.  ‘That hasn’t been the case on my farm,’ he emphasizes.  He does believe no-till has made him an increasingly attentive and forward-looking farm manager, however.”
        Pioneer Receives ‘Low-Saturated’ Sunflower Patent — “Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., announced in January that the company had been issued a patent for a sunflower with a maternally inherited trait that reduces the level of saturated fatty acid in sunflower oil.  According to Pioneer, this discovery allows plant breeders to reduce saturated fatty acids in any sunflower hybrid (including those already rich in unsaturated fats), thereby further lowering the saturated fats in sunflower oil to produce healthier vegetable oils.
          “The four primary fatty acids in sunflower oil are palmitic, stearic, oleic and linoleic.  The patented trait in Pioneer’s low-sat sunflower works to reduce the level of stearic acid in the final product, i.e., sunflower oil.”
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