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Planting equipment calibration

Find guidance on how to calibrate grain drills and air seeders to maximize yield and economic return.

Operating planting equipment

The double disc press wheel drill used by many growers provides the best stands when traveling less than 4 miles per hour and seeding less than 2 inches deep in a firm seedbed at the optimal moisture level. Faster speeds may cause extreme variations in seeding depth.

Many air seeders and reduced tillage drills are designed to seed into high-residue conditions. Seeding unit design usually dictates seedbed preparation and pre-planting tillage needs.

Check seeding unit settings and seed placement performance in each field. As seedbeds dry, frequently check performance.

It’s essential to pack soil over and around seed for uniform emergence. This becomes critical for rough, cloddy, rapidly drying seedbeds and delayed planting. Reduced ground speeds enhance uniform seed covering and packing consistency.

Grain drill calibration

The seeding rate tables found in your operator’s manual or on the drill hopper cover are based on a standard weight per bushel for various crops. Wheat has a standard weight of 60 pounds per bushel.

Due to differences in varieties and seed lots, the seed size and weight may vary from the standard.

Seed metering systems are based on volume displacement. This means that, if one lot of seed varies in size and weight from another, the system will meter two different amounts of seed if you don’t change the drill setting.

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Air seeder calibration

The air delivery system makes it difficult to collect seed at the openers with a tarp or in the bag.

These units usually have a catch box directly under the seed bin designed for calibration and a hand crank to measure out the seed over a particular distance. They’re usually designed to catch seed from one-tenth of an acre.

Follow the instructions in the operator’s manual for hand crank revolutions and make adjustments in the seeding rates.

Jochum Wiersma, Extension agronomist, Joel Ransom, Extension agronomist and Vern Hofman, emeritus agricultural engineer, North Dakota State University

Reviewed in 2018

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