New flat seed drill will give much better crop.

"I didn’t believe that the seed drill was that bad". Comment from a reader after reading this article.

Introduction

Since the mechanization in the farming started in the early 1700 the seed drill has had a unique place during spring season and everyone was for sure satisfied with the invention of a machine that took over the grain seeding job. (The seed drill was invented by Jethro Tull in 1701). The only great renewal lately is the combination seed drill where also the fertilizer is seeded in rows (with double distance). It has never been any discussion about that. Everything else is constantly changing, but the seed drill. I therefore became curious if the row seed drill is so uniquely perfect as everyone seems to believe or if there are room for improvements here as on most other fields in the world. This became an interesting study because it shows that these machines ought to be considerably improved.

The nature does it differently

If it was to the nature to decide, this would have been done in a different way. You can see it from the fact that every seed that has been distributed naturally becomes spread so occasionally around and so evenly distributed as possible by chance. The seeds can then sprout and set roots independent of the other seeds from the very same plant and thus get good space for setting roots in every direction and thus get nutrition light, humidity and be deeply rooted without competing with the roots from the other seeds from the same plant. This is for sure optimal since the plants with these characteristics are the most prosperity. Some plants have developed even more advanced by the fact that birds or animals eat the seeds or berries and as thank for that the seed become widely spread wrapped in manure and humidity. They therefore have quite sovereign possibilities for a good start.

Drawbacks with the combination row seed drill.

a. The grain seeding part

What have then the manufacturers of the combination row seed drill done? It looks almost as if they have tried to do everything crosswise of what the nature itself has discovered as most optimal. First they make the seed drill in such a way that they are seeding the grain in rows with 4-5 inches (100-125 millimeters) distance. This means that the grains will be lying very close together with a distance of only 1/8 inch (3 millimeters) and therefore must compete with each other about the space to place roots and blades that later on shall collect nutrition water and light. The anchoring becomes poor because the roots from every grain often will be distributed mainly in one direction because the other directions are occupied by other grains and in addition the straws will stand bowed and thus be weaker than they would have if they had been seeded evenly distributed all over the whole field. Everybody can assure this themselves by studying the roots and straw from finished grown up grain straw. Therefore you will get more drying damages, weed, fall-over and poorer light and collection of nutrition and thus of course less harvest than you should get. Apropos, even distribution of the seed. They haven’t even managed that. The distributing mechanism in the seed drill has uneven feeding area and therefore the seed feeds uneven even along the rows. See picture 1. One seed drill deliverer even had a rotating feeding mechanism that only delivered to one seeding pipe at the time and therefore per definition delivered the grain in clusters. The shape of the seeder provides also that the grain partly will be lying on top of each other and thereby ”secure” uneven seed depth with strengthening of the disadvantages you just have read here.
Everyone of us who have worked with trying to get up the details of the cryptic seed tables and the user manuals explanations and have tried to get correct amount of seed by a combination of correct setting of several adjustment handles, feeder speeds, grain types, seed weights and sizes knows what trick this is. Since you also shall do this only once a year is it almost as starting from scratch every time. All the manufacturers have moreover of course different solutions that makes it not easy to seek advice with others.

Picture 1. Grain and fertilizer should have been seeded quite evenly distributed at the same depth. Row seeding gives very unfavorable placing of the straws as the picture shows. This manufacture doesn’t even seed evenly distributed along the rows.

b. The fertilizer part of the seed drill

But even if it is bad on the grain seeding part, this is only the first name in comparison with the fertilizer seeding part. Here, someone has made the masterpiece of placing the seeding paws with 10 inches (250 millimeters) distance as far away from the seed grains as possible. See figure 2. The roots of the grain plants must therefore grow more than 2 inches (60 millimeters) to one side before it reaches the nearest fertilizer. How long into the growing season is that? Many weeks. And during that period of time much of the fertilizer will manage to be used feeding weed and disappear down into the ground and ground water. The weed can gormandize quite alone. And it thanks you by developing a vigorous leaf mass and oust the utility plants. Fantastic. My brother calculated that for each pound (kilo) fertilizer that will be taken out from the field through the harvest, 3-4 pound (kilos) disappear other places. Clearly written: 75 to 80 % of all the fertilizer you buy is wasted money that should have stayed in you pockets. And that is not all. The superfluous fertilizer is used to destroy the ground water, creeks and rivers. Not strange that the algae’s grow beautifully. To the other side is it even much worse. Here the roots must become over 7 inches (180 millimeters) before they reach the fertilizer and they will never be that long. The plants became more unstable with roots that stretches mostly in one direction and that gives fall-over and crop loss. And all of this is due to bad combination seed drill solutions. The fertilizer should of coarse been evenly distributed quite close to each grain in much the same way as the nature does with grain wrapped in manure as described in the previous chapter. It might be almost strange that the manufacturers sleep well through the nights. It is of course unnecessary to write that the capacity settings on the fertilizer part of the machine are just as cryptic as on the seed part, but that you of course already know.
The plants should rather cover the surface much earlier in such a way that they can utilize the light much better and shield against drying out. The grain plants will also shadow for the weed much earlier and more effectively and thus give much poorer growing conditions for the weed. The best natural weeds fighting you get by giving it much less light and nutrition.

Figure 1. Combination seed drill. The roots on the seeded plants must grow at least 2 inches (6 cm) before they reach the nearest fertilizer row and as far as 7 inches (18 cm) before they reach the fertilizer row on the opposite side. Not strange that the loss is huge.

The solution. Flat seed drill

The solution is of course as simple as to build a seed drill that doesn’t have all these drawbacks and in addition have some other advantages.
First and foremost it must seed quite even over the whole area and not in rows. See figure 2. By 180 lbs/acre (200 kg/hectare) barley the distance between the grains will be approx. 2 inches (48 millimeters). Think of what fine area that will give every plant so set roots evenly in all directions, collect light, water and nutrition, became straight and form symmetrical leave location that collects much sunlight and shield from drying out the soil and make poorer growing conditions for weed. In this manner the plants will give more crops and get large grain, become vigorous and thus stand more before you get fall-over. When the plants become ideal placed you will (from tests) maybe even be able to seed a bit tighter than today because today’s seeding amount is optimized from seeding with row seed drill.
It is also important to shape the flat seed drill in such a way that the seed depth becomes constant. Approx. 2 inches (40 millimeters) is normally considered to be ideal. If every grain lies equally deep that will secure even sprouting which in its turn give more even ripening, better anchoring, less fall-over and thus better crop quality. In short, huger crop.
The most important for the fertilizer part is that it seeds quite evenly at the exact same spot as the grain in such a way that the grain gets ideal of nutrition already from the very beginning and that as less fertilizer as possible disappear elsewhere.
For both the feeders applies that the distribution mechanism will be shaped in such a way that they seed even all the time in addition to that the grain are blown to its place and thus doesn’t collect in groups. The feeder that measure the seeding amount will be prepared for GPS-control, so that the seeding of both grain and fertilizer automatic can adapt to crop data collected in the combine. And it will be much simpler to adjust and calibrate.

Figure 2. Flat seed drill. Grain and fertilizer evenly dispersed. The roots only need to grow ¼ inch (0.75 cm) from the grain (in average) before it reach a fertilizer pearl. The grain goes in the same pipe as the fertilizer to get fertilizer dust on the grain surface and thus ideal growing conditions.

Increased profit

How much do you earn by changing to Flat seed drill you must evaluate yourself. You know your own soil and can therefore best evaluate how large crop increase you should get in average each year. Here it is room for positive surprises. (The much-improved crop yield, when starting to use seed drill instead of sowing by casting the seed upon ground, was up to eight times!) If you can increase the harvest with i.e. 1400 lbs/acre (1500 kgs per hectare), get better quality, less fall-over and thus better harvesting and lower water content, it will fast sum up to a lot of money and every dollar of it is increased profit because all the running expenses are already paid and the work is the same with the exception of costs for fertilizer and spray liquid that will be considerably lower. 1400 lbs/acre (1500 kgs extra per hectare) multiplied with the grain price and you number of acres may be a lot of money every year.

Reflections

”And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that, sprang up and increased: and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some hundred”. This shows that already 2000 years ago the importance of this was so known that it was used in the ”Parables about the sower” in order to illustrate another situation. And still today’s seed drills have so huge shortcomings that thus described earlier in this article. It is strictly speaking a bit unbelievable, but such thinks happen when the different manufacturers have copied each other uncritically because they supposed that the first producer know what he has done without analyzing the subject more closely. What everyone obviously has focused on is to get a distribution each acre of seed and fertilizer but fail to see that what really matters are the growing conditions for each and every grain. Because each grain only grows from what conditions it is offered and not from the average per acre and therefore all the producers have got into this "mess”.
Yes, what do we do now? Most people will now for sure say that if this had been possible so had someone done it before or propose that if I have such a good solution on this problem then I only can go to the farmers equipment manufacturers because they know these things so well and then they will buy the solution and start with the production. Wrong and right. From many years experience with development and inventions (one quite large internationally) the following will happen: First the manufacturers will try to explain that I am wrong, argue strongly for their present solutions, demand ”documentation of the results” from an independent institute and try to ”proof” that it is not technically practicably. When that isn’t possible any more will they tell that they have thought of this for a long time but found out that it is not efficient, to costly etc. Then they will demand to see my solution”to check out if it works” while they in real life only want to find out how it is constructed to be able to copy it for free.
No, if we shall get started with the production of these new seed drills we must build up the production from the ground in order to at the same time imprint understanding of the importance of all the time to find new and better solutions. This can happen if the interest, among farmers, for such seed drills is large enough to get it profitable to start efficient serial production. The more times passing by, the more you as a farmer will suffer by the fact that the harvest became less than necessary every year. For sure a bit irritating, and therefore it is important to get something done with it now, as fast as possible. Allegation! When the Flat seed drill appears on the market the same thing will happen as happened with the 35mm photo camera after the digital camera entered the market. No one wanted to buy it at any price.
If you may be interested or have views we hope you will contact us on mail:flagro@fladby.com so that we can get the interest mapped. Internet: http://flagro.fladby.com. The more that are interested the faster we can start the production.

© Tron-Halvard Fladby/ 2006.05.31