Canola and row crop planter make a promising pair
Can you use less inputs to gain more yield? In 2016, Randy Bata, a Langdon, N.D., farmer, used a row crop planter instead of an air seeder to decrease his typical canola seeding rate by more than 50%. The result? Higher average yield, a reduction in seed costs and a significant jump in input savings.
Alongside his retired father, Charles, and son, Reily, Bata grows barley, canola, soybeans and spring wheat on 4,500 acres just a 15-minute drive from the Canadian border. With guidance from a local equipment dealer, Bata planted 22" rows and dropped the seeding rate to 2.5 lb. per acre on two separate fields (200 and 300 acres).
He compensated for the seed rate reduction with precision planting. The Horsch Maestro planter enabled precise placement and even emergence of canola. He estimates he saved $20 to $30 per acre in seed cost. Bata will lower seeding rate to 2.3 lb. in 2017.
“The air seeder plants are so much closer together and develop a more spindly plant than the planted ones in rows,” Bata explains. “The intention to use a row crop planter is based on a world of difference in precision and emergence. Every seed emerges within hours of each other.”
The 200-acre canola field was planted the same day an adjacent canola field was planted with Bata’s traditional air seeder: “We used a Horsch Joker tillage tool that’s a high-speed wonder. That, combined with a planter, was a great canola match because it gave me a seedbed like nothing I’ve ever had before.”
Management and fertilizer rates were identical in both fields; the only difference was seeding rate. At harvest, the field that was planted yielded 2,870 lb. per acre and the field that was seeded produced 2,770 lb. per acre.
Using the planter allowed Bata to put down a liquid starter at the same time as the seed, which he thinks impacted emergence. “It’s probably a practice I’ll continue,” he says.
Canola is sensitive to depth, with most plantings going into the ground at a 1⁄2" to 3⁄4" deep. A planter offers more depth consistency, enabling farmers to drop seeding rates, says Jeremy Hughes, Horsch product manager in Mapleton, N.D. “If a grower pays over $10 to $12 per pound for canola seed, then cutting seed use in half is a major input savings,” he says.
Using 20" rows can also line up canola with other crop spacings, helping farmers increase efficiency.
“Wider rows and lower seeding don’t mean yield loss,” Hughes says. “The biggest factor is even emergence. Place seed correctly, maintain the same yield goal and allow seed costs to drop.”