Most farmers understand or assume there are some differences in the amount of seed and fertilizer that goes down each row on an air seeder, but new technology is shining a light on just how much variability there is across the toolbar in bulk manifold metering systems.
It’s common to have 20 to 23 percent variance between rows on manifolds from major manufacturers, according to testing conducted by Saskatchewan-based manufacturer SeedMaster.
That means some rows are getting too much product, while other rows are getting too little, resulting in uneven plant stands, unequal nutrient availability, and potentially toxic fertilizer levels, which leads to reduced yields, lodging problems and staging issues — in general, wasted inputs and wasted dollars.
In trying to measure row-by-row distribution, SeedMaster’s R&D team discovered an extraordinarily precise flow monitoring device made by a Hungarian company called Digitroll. The Xeed sensor counts and monitors each seed on each product run.
“When tech advances in this way, sometimes it shines light on things that you knew existed, but you didn’t know they were that bad,” says SeedMaster’s Cory Beaujot.
That variability has always been there, but it’s been difficult to measure until now: “With the advent of some of these sensors that can count literally every kernel of wheat that passes through it, we can start to understand how crummy some of these designs are,” explains Beaujot.
Building on the information from these sensors, SeedMaster has developed a Tunable Tower that allows the operator to monitor and adjust product and air flow in real time through each line in the manifold, substantially reducing the deviation between rows.
Using the Tunable Towers and XeedSystem, SeedMaster says it can cut distribution variance in half. Paired with the UltraPro II system, variance drops to 4 percent.
Beaujot says they’re planning to conduct more exhaustive research with a third party to validate their findings in 2018.
Read more about SeedMaster’s Tunable Towers, XeedSystem and research into uneven seed and fertilizer distribution here.