Buyers’ Guide: Seed Firmers, Covers
The next time you see one of those seed ads with the picket-fence stands, look a bit closer.
Sure, every plant is evenly spaced. Even more important is that they have all evenly emerged.
Particularly in corn, even emergence keys bin-busting corn yields. Even emergence starts right at planting. Unfortunately, so does uneven emergence.
Seeds do not always land right in the bottom of the seed trench where they belong. Meanwhile, soggy spring soils compound matters. “When standard V-closing wheels pass through wet soils, severe compaction can result on both sides of the seed trench,” says Dwayne Beck, who manages the Dakota Lakes Research Farm near Pierre, South Dakota. This can stymie roots as they struggle to push out of the seed trench.
Easing closing wheel pressure is one way to alleviate this compaction. However, this can also cause an unclosed seed trench. Poor stands – and ultimately yields – result.
Enter seed firmers and seed covers, which can be mounted on various planters and drills that can nip off-target seed in the bud.
“The goal is and has always been to press the seed firmly into the bottom of the trench and cover it with loose material,” says Beck. This gives the seed a firm and moist seedbed in which to germinate.
Meanwhile, covering the seed with loose soil nixes the compaction and smearing damage done by seed openers. The loose material can also keep the seed zone from drying, allow oxygen exchange, and boost seed zone soil warming, says Beck.
“These devices usually pay for themselves by providing more uniform crop emergence, particularly if seed bounce is a problem in rough fields or at higher planting speeds,” says Paul Jasa, University of Nebraska agricultural engineer.
Keeton seed firmers feature a curved poly tail, which exerts a light amount of pressure that gently firms the seed into the bottom of the seed trench, say company officials for Precision Planting that makes them. Twenty ounces of pressure is recommended to help firm the seed in the furrow. Over time, seed firmers will wear out and the amount of tension will decrease. The firmer’s screw allows for down pressure adjustment in order to extend the firmer’s life.
In certain situations, Mojo Wire can be added to place more pressure on the seed. However, this risks dragging seed and will wear out the firmer quicker, say company officials.
The design of Flo-Rite Seed Firmers works similar to a Keeton but features what company officials say is a durable high-tech memory polymer and a protected fertilizer tube. Company officials say the polymer material enables the firmers to apply more down pressure if needed. Adjustable mounting brackets allow down pressure adjustment for different soil types and preference.
Schaffert Rebounders have a concave spoon-shape design that funnels seed to the bottom of the furrow. Company officials say the seed depth that’s set while planting is the depth at which you will find the seeds.
These units also make it possible to deliver in-furrow starter fertilizer at planting.
The Flo-Rite unit features a stainless steel liquid tube with discharge hood for long life and no drip or liquid buildup on the firmer, say company officials. Embedding it into the seed firmer helps prevent damage or dislodging of dirt or residue. An option also exists for on seed or in furrow Y-band for starter fertilizer application.
The Keeton seed firmer features integrated liquid applicator tubes that enable you to apply liquid pop-up starter fertilizer, fungicide, or nematicide in the trench. A splitter is included to split the liquid to the sides of the seed trench, if desired.
The Schaffert Rebounder can apply liquid fertilizer or chemicals. Three application options exist, say company officials. They include on seed furrow sidewalls, on top of the seed, or on the furrow’s bottom.
Soil abrasiveness will affect the life span of these products.
Schaffert’s Orange Super Tuff Rebounder is the longest lasting of that firm’s seed covers. Schaffert uses a molding process that often matches the life of these units to that of their planter’s disk blades, say company officials.
Flo-Rite officials say its memory polymer also contains replaceable wear parts that save money over time. When wear plates wear out, you can just replace them and not the entire seed firmer unit, say company officials.
Precision Planting officials say the Keeton seed firmer is made out of durable poly, making breakage nearly nonexistent.
There is one important note for these and other units. Don’t back up the planter with the units in the ground. This can damage seed tubes as well as the seed firmers and seed covers, say officials for all firms.