Lambton Farmer Not Ready To Give Up On Air Seeding Corn
Rebecca Pennings, University of Guelph
Greg Stewart, OMAFRA Extension Specialist

With hundreds of acres to manage, there is no time to waste for Harry Buurma and his sons. This is especially true during the spring planting time, when there are several different crops to be planted and a limited time to do so. With heavy clay soils, the weather can really throw a monkey wrench into the picture. The seeding window is short so any good planting days are taken advantage of and if there are measures that can be taken to get the job done quicker and more efficiently, they are considered. That is the main reason the Buurma's decision to try and get his 40' air-seeder to plant corn - get the job done faster.

Figure 1. Harry Buurma and sons continue to test corn planting with their air-seeder. Note back row of openers locks up which results in 20" corn rows.

Harry Buurma farms, together with his sons, on soils with high clay content near Glencoe in Middlesex and Lambton Counties. Together they have close to 2800 acres which are planted to a variety of crops including grain corn, soybeans, canola, and wheat. In 2005 they grew about 500 acres of corn. This is not the first year that the Buurma's have used an air-seeder to plant corn, but this year it seemed that more of the bugs had been worked out of the system. For instance, the GP5 guidance system which provides auto-steer for the tractor, as well as the monitor that provides seeding and fertilizer rates both appeared to be working as they should. In previous years, they had problems getting these systems to function properly. Also, after a discouraging first year, a couple of years ago, they felt they had been given more ammunition for trying this system out again. Recent research suggests that plant spacing variability does not affect yields as much as commonly thought. Findings such as this make the Buurma's willing to try out their air-seeder again, even though an airseeder typically produces greater stand variability.

So where does the planting speed come from? The air-seeder that the Buurma's are using, which is a Case IH, has a split compartment which holds 84 bushels of corn seed and about 8,000 lbs of fertilizer. This enables planting with very few stops to fill the planter up. The second reason for speed is the unit width; which plants 24 rows on 20 inch centers (40 feet in total). To get that sort of capacity they would need a 16 row corn planter. The air- seeder uses single disc drill openers. The rear gang of openers locks up for planting corn in 20" rows or in the engaged position, plants crops in 10" rows.

The air-seeder's tank in this arrangement is towed between the tractor and the actual planter unit. The seed is metered via a roller bar and does not singulate seeds like a typical corn planter, but total plant population has been fairly reliable.

Buurma and his sons use their airseeder to plant wheat, soybeans, canola, and corn. This year when they planted corn, one of the hoppers held the starter fertilizer, and the airflow was set to deliver about 8 lbs of nitrogen per acre with the seed. The remainder of the nitrogen was top-dressed using 28% (VAN) through the sprayer, shortly after planting. The air-seeder comes with a monitor, which is mounted in the tractor cab. The monitor gives the seeding rate per acre and warns if one of the hoses gets plugged.

Figure 2. Metering rol/s seem to give good population control but seed spacing is certainly not "picket fence".

When asked if he felt there were any drawbacks to using an air-seeder, Roger (Harry's son) had two comments. First, while it is nice to need only one planter to seed all crops, it does mean that they are limited to only one person planting on any particular day. For instance, there may be days when soybeans could be planted on the same day as corn, but with only one planter doing both crops, this is no longer a possibility. The other obvious concern is seed spacing. Harry is convinced that the seeding rate per acre is accurate but he admits to taking some risks about the seed spacing. If the air-seeder isn't as accurate for seed spacing as a planter with finger pick-up, plate, or vacuum metring devices, does this actually pose a problem when it comes to final yields?



The Buurma's, hoping to reaffirm their decision to try their airseeder out again, planted some test strips this year comparing their airseeder with a typical row-unit planter using a singulated metering system. To obtain a side-by-side comparison of the two planters, several areas in the field were hand-harvested, and overall, the air-seeder actually generated yields equal to or greater than the conventional planter. Buurma believes that the 20" row spacing tends to smooth out some of the impacts from uneven spacing within the row. After all is said and done, Harry states that he is certainly not discouraged with the 2005 results of the air-seeder and more than likely will keep trying to use and improve the system.

Back to Top