Perry Leach's Direct Seeding Experience in the Dry Brown Soil Zone at Leader

Accraplant2Before making the move into direct seeding, Perry Leach of Empress, Alberta and his father farmed with discers in a typical wheat/fallow rotation. The turning point for their farming operation came during the 1988 drought. As he watched the topsoil blowing away and its damaging effect on what little crop there was, Perry resolved to change their farming system. He wanted to reduce tillage to reduce the erosion potential and allow for a more diversified crop rotation. Perry and a neighbour sold their discers and together, purchased a Versatile 2000 hoe drill. They decided to modify the drill by replacing the hoe shanks with Acra Plant disc openers. They chose these openers based on the performance of a neighbour's modification with these same openers. They converted the hoe drill from its existing 8-inch centres to 10-inch centres. Like the original hoe drill, their modified drill had to place the fertilizer with the seed. However, they rarely applied more than 20 lbs/ac of actual nitrogen. This modification allowed them to seed into standing stubble and to seed crops like peas, lentils, mustard, canary seed, sunola and some spices. Each Acra Plant opener cost $500 for a total of about $24,000.

Accraplant3Since their modification of the Versatile hoe drill, both Perry and his neighbour increased their land base and were also doing some custom seeding. With these combined demands, Perry and his neighbour decided they each needed their own seeding unit. A 30-foot John Deere 1610 cultivator frame and a 665 air cart was purchased. The air cart had already been converted to a tow-behind unit. Perry bought the Flexi-Coil Barton generation 1 angle disc openers. He mounted these disc openers on 10-inch centres. The tandem wheels in the centre section of the cultivator were left alone to handle the weight of the machine during transport. The tandem wheels on the wings were changed to singles, allowing more room in which to fit the long openers. With the tandem wheels in the centre section, Perry had to weld a 4-inch square tube on the hitch to hang four of the openers. Some frame extensions were also added in order for the openers to fit. The Barton openers are single shoot openers, so he is limited on how much nitrogen he can place with the seed.

Dcp 1164In 1998, Perry upgraded to the new single shoot Barton angle discs. The Generation 1 Barton discs cost about $570 each. The new Barton discs cost an additional $200 after trading in the old ones. The overall cost of the drill was about $35,000. Perry seeds about 1800 acres and will usually custom seed an additional 300-400 acres. He feels he might have to replace the scraper blades after three or four crops. Although Perry's tractor is a 1981 Versatile 835, the drill does not require nearly as much horsepower as a hoe-type air drill or air seeder of the same width.

Rock picking was always a dreaded chore and a problem getting done in time alone. Since using these angle discs, picking rocks is not a big problem anymore as he doesn't rip up many rocks. Another advantage of using these openers and a diversified crop rotation, is the organic matter in the soil has increased to as much as 3% and the density of weeds is much less than land nearby farmed conventionally.

All in all, Perry is very happy with his current system, which works well in the Dry Brown Soil Zone.

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