The adjustment and operation of a no-till drill makes a bigger difference in overall performance than does the design, manufacturer or attachments, says an Oklahoma State University agricultural engineer.

Randy Taylor, speaking to the No-till Oklahoma Conference in Oklahoma City, said planter manufacturers have improved no-till significantly. “Growers should think about what they want to accomplish when they begin contemplating which no-till drill they want,” Taylor said.

He said many drills currently available will perform well if operated properly. Operating speed and depth control are critical factors. “Research shows that planting performance improves at the proper speed. And know where you’re planting. Check behind the planter for proper depth.”

He said press wheels typically control how deep the seed goes. “Down force can dictate depth control in some challenging situations. Dig for the seed behind the planter to check it.”

Cutting through old-crop or cover crop residue also may affect depth and planter performance.

Taylor said growers have many options for no-till planting systems including no-till drills, fluff and plant units, slice and plant machines, planters with coulters to cut through residue and either single disk or double-disk openers.

He said coulters cut residue and mix it with the soil. “That requires additional down force and crusting is possible under the right conditions.”

He recommends ground speed of 6 miles per hour with coulters. “That speed seems to work the coulters better. Going slower might throw up clods.”

He said slice and plant units do not use coulters but cut through residue and place seed in the slot. These planters use either single disk or double-disk openers. “The slot may re-open in heavy soils if the crop is drilled in soil that’s too wet and planting is not followed by a rain. Changing soil moisture could be a factor in crusting and re-opening planting slots.”

Taylor said choosing the best planter may depend on crop and planting conditions. He said research comparing Great Plans, John Deere and Sunflower drills indicated a slight advantage or no significant difference with the John Deere. “We didn’t see a lot of consistent differences." Research measured emergence and yield. Planters operated in fields with adequate planting moisture; all received rain within five days of planting and all units were run by company reps.

Variations in seeding depth could have influenced final results,” Taylor said.

email: rsmith@farmpress.com