24 Dec, 2013
SeedMaster vs. Corn Planter Trial


There is a commonly held perception that an air seeder is not a satisfactory option for seeding corn that is intended for the grain market. The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in yield and maturity between a SeedMaster air seeder and a corn planter.


SeedMaster operates a 2000 acre Research and Development farm located in SE Saskatchewan. The soil is classified as a Black Chernozem – Clay Loam. Topography is categorized as gently to moderately rolling.  Organic matter ranges from 3.8 to 4.9% with a ph of 6.9 – 8.0 on average.



The SeedMaster Research Farm has access to a 100-15-SXX-20 with a tow behind 820bu Nova-XP.  It is a 100’ wide toolbar with 80 openers on 15” row spacing.  The toolbar houses a front mount 20bu on-frame tank that features Individual Row Metering (IRM) and corn specific SeedMaster test metering.  The 820bu Nova-XP is a tow behind air seeder comprised of 4 compartments.  3 – 260bu tanks and 1 – 40bu tank. A John Deere 9630 tractor is used to pull the implement.  A Viper Pro monitor controls drill/tank functions plus tractor guidance at RTK correction level.

A neighbour to the SeedMaster Research Farm owns a 12 row John Deere 7200 vacuum planter on 30’ row spacing (30’ width).  The planter had no provisions for fertilizer application.  The research farm’s John Deere 9630 tractor was used to pull the implement.

Pioneer® brand P7213 seed was used for the trial. Three seed rates were selected for both seeding systems.  22,000, 26,000, and 30,000 plants per acre were targeted.

Below is a picture of the SeedMaster test metering used for the trial.


It can be seen from the above picture that every second cup is unreachable by the seed.  This facilitated the adaptation from 15” row spacing to 30” row spacing.  The rotational direction of the meter is reversed in relation to other SeedMaster on-frame tanks.   Corn seed is collected and brought over the top of the meter and dropped into a shoot connected to the venturi cup.  The normal rotational direction of metering was found to cause unwanted effects on the corn seed regardless of the metering gap between meter and metering ledge.  Due to the oblong shape of the corn seed, it would compress the seed and cause physical damage. This had a negative impact on seed survival.  Below is a picture of Norbert Beaujot with a front row view of the test metering system as the air seeder crosses the field.


Plant counts were conducted after the crop emerged, and it was found that both seeding systems had a similar seed survival.

Below is an as-applied map showing where the SeedMaster seeding system applied corn seed.  The white areas of the map are the non-SeedMaster seeded portions of the field.  A 60’ wide strip was left for the planter so it could make 2 passes at the desired rates.



Both seeding systems targeted a yield of 110 BPA.   360 lbs/acre of total granular fertilizer (130-23-15-10) was applied to the trial area using the SeedMaster system.  Rates were chosen based on soil testing from the previous fall.  All fertilizer requirements were directed, at the time of seeding, to the fertilizer knife at the SeedMaster factory setting of 0.75” below and 1.5” to the side of the seed.

For planter system fertilizer requirements, the SeedMaster provided the granular fertilizer required ahead of the planter.  The SeedMaster seeding system employs automatic product overlap control technologies that can be controlled manually by the operator when desired.  In a single pass of the 100’ wide SeedMaster seeding system:

  • fertilizer was applied to the full 100’ width
  • corn seed was applied to 40’

This allowed for fertilizer only requirements for 2 full passes of the 30’ wide planter. The planter plots were staked at that time.  Later in the same day when the SeedMaster portion of the trial was completed, the planter was hooked up and seeded the planter portion of the trial.  AB lines were struck with the Raven auto steer system to place the corn seed from the planter as close as possible to the fertilizer band without risking it being to close.  Below is a picture of the planter as it was being connected to the tractor on the afternoon of May 21, 2013.



First frost on the SeedMaster Research farm occurred on the night of Sept.14, 2013.  -1°C was reached for approximately 3 hours.  It appeared that only the outside 150’ from the perimeter of the field was affected.  At that point in time, the crop was at early dent stage.  A -4°C killing frost occurred 8 days later that finished the remaining corn acres.  This frost may have resulted in a 5-25% yield reduction (difficult to make an accurate estimate). The picture below was taken 2 days after the first frost on Sept.16, 2013 from the outside perimeter.



Harvest commenced on Nov 92013 – 173 days after seeding.  The outside headlands were harvested with 30’ wide draper header.   Unacceptable ear losses were witnessed from the header. The rotation of the reel would flatten the corn plants before the knives would cut them.  This would result in cobs being knocked off the plant before they could arrive on the draper. I would estimate losses to be in the 2-5 bushels/acre.  Another issue with the use of a draper header was too much plant material went through the combine.  This resulted in extremely low acres combined per hour.  The SeedMaster Research Farm combine averaged 2.9 acres harvested per hour (0.8 MPH average speed). 

A few days later after the headlands were harvested and plots were squared off with the SeedMaster Research Farm combine, another combine arrived with a proper chopping corn header to complete the remaining corn acres and plots. Below is a picture the combine with chopping corn header.



Investment in proper corn head is required for any significant acreage.  The corn header resulted in minimal losses at the header.  Stubble residue appeared similar between the chopping corn header and the straight cut header.  Due to less material going through the combine, a significant increase in harvested acres per hour was noted.  Approximately 7.2 acres per hour was maintained.  This represents a 248% increase in output.  Although we are comparing apples to oranges – 8120 vs 2388, I strongly believe that a proper corn head is required for sizable corn acreage.

Below are the results from the first year of the trial.  In the graph below, all three seed rates are averaged together to gain a better assessment of the overall difference between the planter and the SeedMaster.



It can be seen from the above graph that the planter out yielded the SeedMaster by 3.63% in the first year of the study.  The planter moisture was also 0.4% lower than the SeedMaster.  Although the SeedMaster yielded slightly less than the planter, I am excited to continue testing as SeedMaster corn metering continues to develop and advance.  I strongly feel that as SeedMaster metering improves the corn plant spacing within each row, it will eventually out yield the corn planter due to all other things that SeedMaster drills are known to do well (accurate depth, seed to soil contact, black strip, moisture to depth equivalent….)

Future Considerations:

Looking forward, canola will be planted on the corn stubble in spring of 2014.  Although only a 70 BPA crop was grown in 2013, I am sure we have 150 BPA residue left in the field to deal with.  The SeedMaster Research farm will be looking at a number of residue management techniques ranging from nothing to intensive.  The correct management option appears to be difficult to determine.  It appears to be a compromise between:

  • moisture conservation
  • soil temperatures
  • ability to seed effectively
  • time pressures

One item that seems to have been left out of the corn stubble management discussion to date has been the realization that it does not normally take place in the fall.  Corn grown on the Northern Great Plains will most likely be harvested while the ground is frozen.  This only allows for stubble management during spring at a time when farmers are accustomed to sowing the ground rather than working it.



The results of this trial are from one year only.  The SeedMaster Research hopes to replicate this trial in the 2014 growing season.

It is my hope to persuade other members of the Master Seeders Network to replicate this trial on their farms over a broad range of geography in 2014.  The Master Seeders Network is currently made up of 37 members (24 of whom were active in 2013). 

These results will vary in subsequent trials, depending on environmental conditions present throughout the growing season.

This trial needs be repeated in time and multiple locations across a broad geography.


Special thanks to the following:

Briane Doane - Pioneer Hi-Bred Sales Agent, owner and operator of JD vacuum planter, owner and operator of harvester outfitted with chopping corn header. Without significant support from Brian and his father Gordan Doane, this trial would not have been possible.






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