Wheat School: Taking the impact of precision planting to yield

RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson and OMAFRA cereals specialist Joanna Follings

How could precision planting technology impact Ontario winter wheat yields?

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs cereals specialist Joanna Follings and RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson are back with a final report on precision planting trials Follings conducted on her home farm at Ayr, Ont.

RealAgriculture first visited the site in September 202o when trials were planted using four different seed drills. One of the objectives was to measure how seed planted using drills with new downforce technology (SeederForce) compared to conventional drills.

On this season-ending Wheat School episode, Follings and Johnson review how the trials progressed throughout the growing season and share yield results. During the fall and spring, Follings noted that the SeederForce drills delivered stronger, more even emergence as well as more even tillering. The crop canopy also closed quicker in the spring.

Overall, yields results for the trials were outstanding with plots yielding as high as 149 bu/ac. When all the numbers were crunched, SeederForce delivered a 3 to 4 bu/ac advantage over the drills without downforce technology. Both Follings and Johnson agree that the yield difference is not statistically significant, but they believe the technology has the potential for a positive impact on Ontario winter wheat yields.

Follings says further research is needed to fully assess the potential impact of SeederForce. She would like to see how the technology performs in different growing and soil conditions. She notes that fall 2020 provided ideal conditions for the trial; seed was planted early (Sept. 16) on a great day that was followed by an open fall and a winter that was easy on the crop.

“All the wheat, regardless of the drill, was off to the races,” says Follings. “It was well-developed with tillers and had lots of roots going into winter. We set it up for success just by planting it in good time and utilizing good agronomy.” (Story continues after the video.)

Follings and Johnson also discuss row-width and fertility learnings gleaned from the research. When it comes to row width, the advantage clearly goes to 7.5-inch rows compared to 10-inch rows.

Johnson notes that the research did not show an advantage for seed-placed phosphorus but there was a good reason for that. With a strong rotation and lots of dairy manure, the farm boasts excellent fertility with high P and K levels and an eye-popping 5 percent organic matter on a sandy soil. The full 2021 Drill Demo Results report is available on Field Crop News.

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