Bob Kidd likes the fact that he has an economical seeding system that will work with all crops, in all conditions, whether he’s establishing forages, seeding cereals into stubble, or converting old pastures to canola.
Kidd, who farms northwest of Edmonton, says an older Flexicoil 820 air seeding system outfitted with the Technotill seeding system is able to compete with and often beat any system that is out there today and at a fraction of the cost.
“When we bought this equipment about four years ago, we paid $33,000 for the air seeder and then with some other upgrades to the hydraulics and the tractor we probably spent a total of about $60,000,” says Kidd who runs a mixed farming operation near Mayerthorpe, Alta. along with family members. “It has done just an excellent job in all conditions and we’re growing the same crops as a lot of people who probably need to put a three in front of what we spent, to cover the cost of their equipment.”
Kidd runs a mixed farming operation along with his brother Larry, his uncle Ron and a cousin Darren. They run about a 320 head commercial Angus/Simmental cow-calf operation. They crop abut 2,500 acres of wheat, oats, barley, faba beans, peas and canola. And they also have about 1,500 acres of pasture and hayland.
They bought the 35 foot wide Flexicoil 820 seeder with a Flexicoil tank about four years ago. It was immediately outfitted with the Technotill seeding system. The shanks are set on 12 inch row spacing.
“We bought it with Technotill in mind,” he says. “We had hired a custom operator to do some seeding and he was using the Technotill system. We were so impressed with how that worked that we wanted it when we bought our own air seeding system.”
Kidd likes to put the Technotill system to the test even with some less than conventional seeding techniques. The seeding system even fits with Kidd’s approach to establishing a small-seeded crop like a new forage stand.
“We use a custom blend for forages so there is only one batch of seed and if we run out , we just can’t run to the store and buy more,” he says. “So we need to make sure that seed batch is seeded at the proper rate to cover the field.”
To achieve this, Kidd seeds in a three-stage operation. The first pass over the field he broadcast applies about 50 per cent of the seed. He just raises the tool bar on the Flexicoil seeder out of the ground about eight inches and then runs the switch manually as he broadcast applies about 50 per cent of the seed batch over the whole field.
On the second pass, he seeds the other half of the seed in a conventional manner with all shanks down and seeding tips in the soil. He likes to seed grass seed shallow, so he runs the three-quarter inch opener about one-quarter inch deep. The Technotill system packs about a quarter inch of soil on top of the seed. After the second pass he goes over the field with a harrow packer to complete the job.
“We’ve tried that a few times and we get a tremendous catch,” says Kidd. “About half your seed is in those drill rows and you can still see them, but thanks to the first broadcast application we also have grass established between the drill rows. It is a good way to get the forage stand established.” Depending on the year he’ll seed anywhere from 160 to 300 acres to a new forage stand.
Kidd’s custom forage blend usually includes two or three varieties of alfalfa or other legume such as birdsfoot trefoil. And then there is a blend of five grass types. He likes to use varieties suited to different growing conditions to optimize production under varying conditions.
Seeding the forage in late May or early June, he’ll often take a light silage cut fairly early which also helps control weeds, and then take a hay cut later on. Some years the hay cut has produced 2 ½ , 1400 pound bales per acre. “So even in that establishment year you’re not giving away production for the whole year,” he says.
Along with establishing forage stands, the Technotill system works equally well to convert played out pastures and hayfields to annual crops. Kidd will direct seed annual crops into sod in either fall or spring.
For the fall seeding, he makes sure he first takes the silage or hay cut off the forage stand. Before the hay is cut, probably sometime in late July or August he applies a burndown application of Roundup. Depending on weather he’ll wait three days to a week and then cut the hay. If he is seeding fall rye into the stubble, he’ll seed it right after the hay is baled, and if he is seeding winter wheat he aims to have that seeded by early September.
He applies one Roundup treatment before he cuts the hay, and often a second Roundup application right after seeding before the new fall rye or winter wheat crop emerges. With each treatment he hits the old forage stand with a two-litre per acre rate of Roundup.
It he plans to convert an old pasture or hayfield to oats or canola, he usually makes the first two-litre application of Roundup in the fall to kill the forage stand and a second treatment in early spring before seeding. “I was pleased to see how well the canola worked as we converted an old pasture to annual cropping,” says Kidd. “We applied Roundup , then seeded Roundup Ready canola, and that helped make another good hit on any grass the earlier treatments missed. I would suspect that the Liberty Link system would work well too.”
Kidd runs the opener at about 1 ½ inches deep when seeding canola into sod as he wants to make sure the canola seed is below the root mass and in contact with soil.
With the Technotill seeding system, even though the opener is running quite deep the packer plate only packs one-quarter inch of soil on top of the seed, allowing for the recommended shallow seeding.
Even though his air seeder isn’t that wide, he can cover a lot of acres. “If I have a nice smooth, flat field I can seed canola at 7.5 mph,” he says. “We operate with a ¾ inch opener on 12 inch spacing. As we seed in stubble fields that opener will throw some soil off to the side and that helps to break down the crop residue from the previous year.”
Kidd is running a single chute seeding system, so with cereals and canola he is applying nitrogen in the form of anhydrous ammonia in a separate spring or fall operation. The Technotill seeding system handles small grass and canola seed, mid-size cereal seeds, and larger seeds such as faba beans and peas equally well. The nitrogen-fixing pulse crops are direct seeded in the spring.
“I have been really impressed with how well the Technotill handles such a range of field conditions,” says Kidd. “We haven’t had any serious drought conditions, but it has been dry. And I appreciate the moisture conservation feature of Technotill under those dry conditions. “
Along with dry conditions, Kidd says the seeding system has worked well even in extremely wet conditions.
He even had one situation where he was seeding oats into killed out sod, and he was running the air seeder through standing water. “That is one thing about seeding into sod is that the sod will carry the equipment even when it is wet,” says Kidd. “In that one field it rained and we had standing water on the sod and we just kept going. The air system was blowing bubbles in the water as it was seeding. The oats survived and the field produced a crop.”
He says it was an extreme situation, and it was important that the water disappeared after a couple days giving the crop a chance to grow. If the field had stayed water logged the oat seeds would never have germinated.
“We are extremely pleased at how well our seeding system equipped with Technotill has worked,” says Kidd. “What sold us on it was the flexibility of the system and we haven’t been disappointed. I don’t know if it is the best system in every situation, but certainly works well under all conditions.”
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