Air Drills & 'Flowers
The popularity of air drills for seeding sunflower in narrow rows (i.e., “solid seeding”) has risen dramatically within recent years. Why are more sunflower growers using air drills? Among the most common reasons are (1) a desire to cover large areas more rapidly, and (2) the ability to use a single system to seed all of one’s sunflower as well as grain crops.
Paralleling the growing use of air drills with sunflower has been the scope of improvements in the drills themselves. Initially designed to plant small-seeded crops such as wheat and barley, earlier generations of air drills often did not perform well when used for planting a large-seed/low-population crop like sunflower. Irregular seed delivery and inconsistency of seed placement depth were two of the more frequent problems experienced by sunflower producers in initial experimentation with air drills.
Though air drills still will not place sunflower seed with the accuracy of a precision row-crop planter, manufacturers — often relying upon input from experi-enced producers — have made large strides in developing units that are more “user friendly” for ’flowers. There now are meter rollers for sunflower . . . air setting recommendations for sunflower . . . population calibration charts for sunflower. These are some of the steps which reflect manufacturers’ interest in supplying equipment which will perform very adequately in the seeding of a sunflower crop.
Given the current level of interest in the utilization of air drills for seeding this crop, The Sunflower contacted a number of air drill manufacturers and asked them to respond to a series of questions. Several did so, and their answers appear on the following pages.
The questions asked of the manufac-turers were as follows:
1. What air drill model(s) does your firm market which would be applicable for narrow-row seeding of sunflower — and what are some key features which distinguish them from other air drills on the market?
2. What row spacing options would the sunflower producer have available in these models?
3. Do you advise sunflower producers to use certain sizes of seed for optimum placement and emergence when planting with your air drills?
4. Do you offer any specialized equipment (e.g., meter rollers) for use with sunflower specifically?
5. What are your recommendations regarding set-up and calibration of your air drills when planting narrow-row sunflower?
6. What types of openers/seed placement system options are available for the producer who wishes to drill narrow-row sunflower under minimum- or no-till conditions?
7. Some producers have used air drills to plant sunflower in standard wide rows by closing off one of two, or two of three, seed delivery tubes. Do you see any inherent problems in such an approach — especially regarding in-row seed spacing?
8. Any other comments on the use of your air drills for sunflower?
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