What the Heck Does Wheat Pete Have Against the Hoe Drill?

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If you’ve ever heard RealAg agronomist Peter Johnson speak, chances are you know what he thinks about hoe drills.

“Hoe drills are junk. Buy a real drill. Drive on,” said Johnson, while he was still the cereal specialist for OMAFRA, in this video at FarmTech a few years ago.

So what does Wheat Pete have against hoe drills?

“They have all sorts of things wrong with them,” he explains in the conversation below, highlighting three main problems:

  1. They do too much tillage.
  2. Their row spacing is too wide — they usually can’t go narrower than 10 inches.
  3. The biggest issue — inaccurate seed depth placement.

And inconsistent seed depth placement makes it difficult to have a uniform crop at heading and harvest.

“In corn, you look at the size of the cob and you want every cob to be the same size. I want the same thing in cereals, but man, I go to wheat and barley fields and it’s all over the map, and part of that is that differential in depth,” explains Peter. “You have to put that depth gauge wheel right beside where the seed goes in the ground.”

Related: The 10 Commandments of High Yielding Wheat

While disc drills offer improved seed placement (although hairpinning with residue can be a problem), he says it’s time to shift to more precise seeding technology for cereals in North America.

“All drills, they are all nothing more than controlled spill devices. If farmers really want to do something for agriculture, design a drill that’s like a corn planter,” he says. “How is it 30, 40 years later we are still using 1965 technology to put cereals in the ground?”

One intriguing possibility is an Australian seeder that uses high-pressure, low-volume water to slice through residue at planting. The cross-slot drill used in Australia and New Zealand might also help with hairpinning problems and is increasingly being used in the UK, says Johnson.

Wheat Pete and Shaun Haney chat about cereal crop seeding equipment and how it could be improved:

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