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Ground Control

January 25, 2014
By: Nate Birt, Top Producer Deputy Managing Editor
1 Alberta Canada 30 Unit Courtesy of Cross Slot
After 40 years of research and development that began in New Zealand, hundreds of Cross Slot drills and toolbars are in use worldwide. This 30’ unit is operating in Alberta, Canada. In the U.S., the machines are most common in rugged terrain.   

No-till drill thrives in tough conditions with unique opener style

The English language is full of phrases that demand evidence: "You’ve got to see it to believe it" and "the proof is in the pudding."

So it doesn’t surprise custom seeder Ty Meyer when farmers ask him to demonstrate the Cross Slot no-till system. "I’ve seeded through 3'-tall sage brush this fall, and it wasn’t an issue," says Meyer, production ag manager for the Spokane Conservation District in Washington. "Residue doesn’t concern me. I’d rather have residue standing than have it mowed or shredded."

Cross Slot’s reputation is built on performance in rugged terrain.

"We use this for a one-pass seeding system that puts all the seed and fertilizer in side-by-side, and we can go into virtually any kind of residue or firm ground," explains farmer Kevin Larson of Willow City, N.D., who runs a 45' Cross Slot toolbar with a Case IH seed cart. "We can drill right into sod or cut through cornstalks and place 99% of the seed at the depth we expect to."

Development of this no-till tool began 40 years ago with agriculture professor John Baker in New Zealand. Initially intended to plant sheep pastures, today as many as 50 machines in the U.S. and Canada drill wheat and a variety of rotation crops. Cross Slot plans to expand into the Corn Belt.

The Cross Slot system, which includes complete drills as well as custom toolbars and components such as the unique opener, is used in 18 countries, says Gavin Porter, Cross Slot CEO.

"It works in just about every soil condition that you can think of—from sand, loams to clays," he says.

2 Cross Slot Mk IV opener RHS Courtesy of Cross Slot   Copy

The Cross Slot opener features serrated 22" coulters that cut into the ground for seeding while leaving between 70% and 90% of surface residue intact. Side blades place seed and starter fertilizer on the same horizontal shelf.

First introduced to the Cross Slot in the 1980s, Keith Saxton, a USDA research agricultural engineer, saw the machine had potential to help wheat growers in the hilly Palouse, which is prone to some of the worst soil erosion.

"It is clear that this concept is going to have a real spot in the machinery market," says Saxton, who was instrumental in bringing the machine to the U.S.

How it works. The Cross Slot opener’s precise seeding and banded fertilizer capability helps no-till producers maximize crop seeding and emergence on flat fields and rugged terrain. In addition to wheat, the equipment is being used to plant crops such as corn, soybeans, canola and alfalfa.

The 11" wide openers are the foundation of the Cross Slot system. Unlike double-disk and hoe-style openers that create a V- or U-shaped seed trench, the Cross Slot opener has side blades that create a single horizontal shelf, placing seed on the left with starter fertilizer and the rest of the fertilizer on the right. Seed and fertilizer are between 1" and 1¼" apart to prevent fertilizer burn.

Preparing a path for the openers are straight-ahead serrated 22" coulters, which cut into residue with barely visible surface disturbance. The 3" packer wheels close the furrow and maintain seeding depth.

Undisturbed residue reduces weed issues and provides food for belowground microbes, creating better moisture retention, organic carbon absorption and soil structure, Porter explains. Over time, these factors lead to increased yields.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - February 2014
RELATED TOPICS: Machinery, New Equipment, Planters

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