A couple of years ago the Kondinin national farm improvement group released a report funded by growers sounding the alarm on unnecessary losses through poor seeding operations. Ground Cover thinks it's worth another look.
A hit-and-miss approach to sowing crops could be costing Australian farmers dearly in lower yields.
A Kondinin farm equipment report found the majority of hroadacre seeding machinery fails to place seed within the recommended vertical band for optimum yield.
Agriculture Department research lias shown significant yield penalties occur with every 10 mm discrepancy from the target seeding depth for wheat. Optimum yields are most likely when sowing 80 per cent or more of the seed between three and five cm deep.
The findings emerged in data from the Group's depth control project involving field work on 100 farms.
Be aware of sowing depth
"A significant number of farmers either aren't aware what depth they are sowing or they can't effectively control the depth." said Kondinin Project Manager Geoffrey Hamilton. "This is an area where yields can be improved by a better awareness of what is happening as the seed hits the soil without necessarily involving major capital outlay."
The study found combines are more accurate than cultivators, which was partly due to the large number of modified seeding boots fitted on the latter.
Levelling devices were judged extremely important in achieving an even seeding depth. Prickle chains were found to leave more even soil but they did not improve the evenness of the soil over the seed.
It appeared that prickle chains either spread the seed further or moved soil over seeds which already had a soil covering.
The report emphasised the importance of matching the coleoptile length of the chosen wheal variety to the depth of seed placement which is largely determined by the moisture level.
Fieldwork also showed 58 per cent of farmers were sowing lupins shallower than Agriculture Department recommendations.
Get out and check
The report strongly recommended that farmers get out of the tractor cab and check seeding depth frequently when sowing, and keep records of their findings.
Farmers are also urged to carry out a plant count after emergence and to consider low-cost modifications such as depth indicators, larger tyres, level lift kits for improved flotation, better depth gauges and rearranged tynes for improved trash flow.