Experiences with Direct Seed Equipment and Systems in the
Intermediate and Higher Rainfall Zones


Marty Weber, Colton, WA

I farm with my brother Pat, and our dad, LeRoy, in the Palouse District, which is located three miles east of Colton. In this area, we have an average rainfall of 18 inches. We also have a farm south of Genesee, Idaho on the canyon rim, averaging 18 inches of rainfall, and a farm south of Moscow on the Idaho-Washington border north of Bald Butte, averaging 20 inches of rainfall annually. Altogether, we are farming over 2000 acres. We have a good range of soil types. About 5% of our ground is 40% slope or more, 10% of our ground is 3% slope, and the remainder is in the range between.

We have a few main staples for crops in our area. Fall winter wheat, spring wheat, spring peas, spring lentils, and spring barley. I am almost completely in a two-year rotation, using wheat in the fall and lentils in the spring. We have been in a two-year rotation for at least 30 years.

In 1982, we tried direct seeding on 55 acres that had dried peas on it. The following spring the fall wheat looked great. It was a very even stand. There were a few ditches where the field was not contoured; however, it was better than the tillage erosion we had on our other pea ground. We did some direct seeding in the years to come.

In fall of 1991 the ground was very dry in our area. When the ground becomes this dry it feels like concrete. When you cultivate ground like this it brings up 1 foot in diameter clods. In previous years, I would go out with my packers and beat those clods back down and fix cultivators, packers, and conventional drills all fall long. So, we decided to look at a direct seeding drill. My brother in-law, Greg Moser, my brother, my dad, and I looked at several drills and decided to purchase a John Deere 750 No-till Drill.

Our fertilizer program in previous years was all liquids. We took the dry box off in the front and put a 200-gallon phosphate tank in its place. We had a 500-gallon tank on our wheel tractor for the aqua. We ran a small tube on the deep bander row to place the aqua. We ran a tube behind the small packer wheel which is located behind the seed boot for the phosphate. We planted 1500 acres that fall, and we have been planting all of our pea and lentil ground since that time.

(Slide 1) In the spring of 1997, we decided to take the dolly out and put in a straight hitch. This helped us in controlling the drill better. (Slide 2) We also put a 500-gallon tank on the back of the drill, and used the 500-gallon tank in the front of our wheel tractor. We could now cover 20 acres before filling. We also added two outside wheels to this drill. This probably was the best improvement we made to this drill. It stopped the tipping problem on the steep side-hills.

In 1993, I bought another 750 drill. We fixed it up just as we did the first one. I kept thinking it would be nice to have a wider drill. Looking at the Agpro drill and the Concord drill, I decided to build a 30-foot direct seeding drill.

(Slide 3) In the spring of 1997, through the fall of 1997, I built this 30-foot drill. Using the main frame of my 15-foot drill, I took off the original seed box and put on an Agpro 4500-pound air box. I left the 200-gallon phosphate tank in place, and added a 750-gallon tank on the tongue of the drill. I purchased a burned-up 750 drill and cut it in half. Hinges were put on each half, then each half was pinned into the main frame.

(Slide 4)When this drill is in transport position, it is 19 feet wide. (Slide 5) I used my PTO to run the airflow, which also came from Agpro.

(Slide 6) Looking over the top, the PTO runs my phosphate pump on the right, and on the left side, the PTO runs an aqua pump.

(Slide 7) This picture is showing you the 4' by 36" cylinder with a 2 1/4" shaft in it. The reason why I did this is because I put 1500 pounds of pressure on each wing. (8) This is a side view of the drill. You can see the deep bander row and the 2 seed rows.

(Slide 9) I like the Agpro air system because each boot has its own delivery system. Last winter, I added a seed monitor to each tube, so now I can watch all 48 seed boots (10) I used the same drive wheel, but reversed the shaft to a gearbox, and then I put on an electric clutch to shut the seed on or off. All my seed, aqua, and phosphate are shut off with one switch. (11) Here you can see the two caster wheels on each side of the tank. They are the original dollies that were in front of each 15-foot John Deere drill.

(Slide 12) As you can see, I pulled this drill with an 8450 John Deere wheel tractor. I filled six tires with water to get enough weight in my tractor to pull it. I decided it would be better to have more horsepower, so I purchased a 9280 Case wheel tractor. I have two, 300-gallon tanks mounted on the nose of the tractor. With this drill and tractor, I can fertilize over 20 acres, and seed over 40 acres.

(Slide 13-a) Here are some pictures taken this spring. The first is some winter wheat, which was sown with my 30-foot drill. This field has been on a two-year rotation for the last 5 years. The wheat on this field went over 90 bushel. (Slide 13-b) This is another field with the same scenario, and the same results. With our two-year program we feel that our yields have not hurt us. After harvest, this field was disc ripped, then cultivated. This spring I will spray Roundup on it, incorporate Pursuit with a harrow cart, and then seed it. After the lentils are up, I will come back with Assure II. This way, I get all my wild oats, and almost all of my other grasses, especially cheat grass. After harvesting these lentils, we will wait until mid September, and then spray Roundup on the ground. Then we will come back in with our 750 drills, and seed it.

(Slide 14)Here are some lentils that were sown into bluegrass sod using our no-till drill. These lentils made 1400 pounds.

(Slide 15)We tried something different on this field. It was 100 bushel standing stubble this spring. I sprayed it with Roundup, then sowed it. I harrowed in 5 ounces of Sencor, then later put on my Assure 2. This field made 912 pounds. (Slide 16) Adjacent to this field, I planted a lentil field in the conventional way. This field made 1410 pounds. (Slide 15) I feel that if I could have waited one week later to seed the standing stubble field, the yield would have been closer to the conventional field. It was simply too wet when I sowed it. The Sencor controlled the weeds as well as it did in the other fields. I will use the same procedure again, but try to seed when the ground is not so wet.

(Slide 17) You can see how well the straw was decomposed. (Slide 18) This was barley ground two years ago. We chiseled it that fall, and then harrowed it. Then, in the spring we used Roundup on it, and came back in with Solution 32 on top of the ground. We then harrowed the solution 32 in and sowed it. Avenge and Weedone 638 were used later on. This field yielded 3300 pounds. The reason we planted it in this way was because the field is almost completely clay, and it is very steep. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to control the weeds earlier. Mother Nature kept me from doing this in a timely manner.

(Slide 19)This is a field of spring barley that I sowed with my 30-foot, no-till drill. The farmer had a name for this hill, Mount Vesuvius. I must say that he named it well. I have never seen a hill that has a 40% pitch on all sides!

(Slide 20) This is another field with some spring barley. It yielded approximately 3,600 pounds. (Slide 21) This is a field of dark northern spring wheat that I sowed in early spring. It is located above Asotin on the Anatone side. It made 40 bushels.

(Slide 22) This slide is another lentil field that was disc ripped last fall. Then, the farmer sprayed Roundup this spring. It was then harrowed and sowed with our 750 drill. The only problem was that this field was too thick of lentils and half of the stems rotted off. The yield was still approximately 1500 pounds.

(Slide 23) This is a barley field, which yielded 4,600 pounds. (Slide 24) This is a field of spring wheat that was planted in late spring and yielded very well.

We have had some set-backs with no-tilling, most of them involving straw. Every time we would try planting winter wheat into spring wheat stubble we would have a substantial yield loss. I believe in our area the ground temperature is the problem. The stubble cover keeps the temperature too cool for too long a period of time. When it finally warms up, it is too late in the season to recover its yield losses.

I feel that tillage erosion is the main problem on our farm. When you disc rip or plow your soil, it is being moved down the hill, and then it is cross cultivated to smooth it down. We know we are moving soil off of our slopes.

In the future, I would like to direct seed everything, never disturbing the soil. I feel if I can take 1/2 of the straw off in the fall and harrow the rest into the soil I would be able to seed my legumes right into the ground the following spring. This would eliminate all plowing, disc ripping, and all cultivating. This is my goal in the future.