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Not Your Typical Seeding Operation

Thursday, January 1, 1998
filed under: Planting Systems

You won’t discover Allen Entzie’s unorthodox sunflower planting method in the textbooks. Nonetheless, it gets the intended job done.

Entzie used his Valmar 240 Airflo granular applicator to seed 1,200 south central North Dakota sunflower acres in 1997. Half those acres were custom-seeded for other producers; the remaining 600 went in under share-crop agreements in which Entzie was involved. The results, he says, were surprisingly uniform plant stands and, at season’s end, solid yields.

Last year was the third in which the Lehr, N.D., producer has used his pickup-mounted chemical/fertilizer applicator to broadcast sunflower seed. It’s an approach which obviously fits for only selected operations: in this case, a conventional-till producer who wants to get his sunflower crop in as quickly as possible.

And when Entzie says “quickly,” he means it. While spreading the seed via the applicator, he motors his pickup through the field at 10-12 mph (sometimes up to 15). With the unit’s 48-foot boom, he’s able to seed 50 to 55 acres per hour.

On the ’97 share-crop acreage, Entzie returned immediately with his Phoenix rotary spike harrow to incorporate the seeds. On the custom-applied acres, the owner was incorporating with his own standard harrow while Entzie’s pickup was still in the field.

His granular applicator obviously doesn’t advertise any “sunflower planting” settings, so Entzie successfully experi-mented with substituted sprockets to slow down the metering rollers and achieve a satisfactory seed metering rate. He prefers spreading size four or five seed, which allows him to use the applicator’s chemical rollers. Entzie says going with larger seed sizes would require the use of the unit’s fertilizer rollers and even-slower metering.

Standard seed drop with the applicator has been around 26,000 to 27,000 per acre, typically resulting in a final plant stand of 24,-25,000. The average incorporated seed depth is probably around 1.5 inches; but given this method of seeding and incorporation, there’s naturally some variance. As long as soil moisture is adequate, however, seedling emergence has been quite uniform throughout the fields, according to Entzie. The warmer soil temperatures of his late May/early June planting dates also contribute to rapid, uniform emergence, he observes.

“If we have the moisture, incorporated seed depth hasn’t seemed to make much difference,” Entzie says. “And if it’s too dry, they won’t come up regardless of depth.”

Interestingly, while he’s been pleased with the results from his uncommon seeding tool, Entzie doesn’t use the granular applicator on his own sunflower ground. Why not? Because he’s a no-till producer.

And how did this granular applicator seeding concept germinate back in 1995?

“There was a farmer north of Lehr who had a lot of ’flowers to plant and not much time,” Entzie reports. “I already had my own ’flowers in, so I told him, ‘If this works, you pay me for the application. If it doesn’t work, you owe me nothing.’

“It turned out to be his nicest field.” — Don Lilleboe
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