Downforce drives lift in seeding
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but it is also the frustration of many farm businesses when crops emerge showing deficiencies in seeding operations that cannot be addressed until the next season.
Deciding this was far too costly, Victorian grower Steve Lanyon invested $16,000 in new seeding technology from the US that helps him to monitor the effectiveness of the sowing operation from the tractor cabin during planting, rather than having to wait for germination.
Steve and his father, Trevor, say they have already recouped their expenditure on the technology after using it in the previous season to monitor and improve seeding accuracy on their 3500-hectare property in north-central Victoria, 10 kilometres west of Boort.
Steve says data from their seeding operation recorded by the new monitor, and yield mapping, showed that inadequate downforce or weight on their planter’s gauge wheels had been reducing the yield potential of their irrigated maize by about 50 per cent. This was because the downforce deficiency caused the planter to lose contact with the soil surface, causing the seed to be planted too shallow; where less moisture is available for germination.
He estimates that the yield penalty stemming from the inadequate downforce cost more than $80,000 across their 660ha maize crop.
However, downforce is just one of the precision sowing factors monitored by the technology.
In the tractor cabin, the 20/20 SeedSense® monitor developed by the US-based company Precision Planting shows a range of parameters that influence the seeding operation’s accuracy and efficiency. These include downforce, seed spacing, plant density, the speed and area covered by the planter and the hybrid seed variety being sown.
Another variable recorded by the system is so-called ‘singulation’, which indicates whether a single seed has been placed in the soil, compared with instances where several seeds have been planted together (multiples) or whether the planter has failed to release any seed (skips).
Apart from yield gains, this new information, and in particular the measure of ‘singulation’, has helped the Lanyons reduce their expenditure on seed.
Steve estimates that modifications to their seeding equipment to improve the accuracy of their seed placement, such as an electric drive-row unit, saved them about $6000 in maize seed costs alone this season.
The technology has had a larger effect than cost-savings and yield gains; it has seen the Lanyons rethink their entire approach to seeding with a stronger focus on precision placement of a single seed deep in the soil profile.
After using the 20/20 SeedSense® system to plant this summer season’s maize crop, they also plan to use it to across their entire cropping program, including maize, barley, canola, faba beans and safflowers.
The seeding technology has also seen ‘well-sown, half-grown’ become the new ethos for their family business, Lanyon Farms, and Steve now hopes to grow a 20t/ha maize crop.
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