Saving Dollars with Sectional Control

- Sectional control technologies

Automatic section control technologies for row crop planters. Photo: Alabama Cooperative Extension System

How much money does using sectional control to stop seeding overlap actually save farmers?

Last year, Nevin Rosaasen, policy and program specialist with the Alberta Pulse Growers (APG), was looking into cost effective technologies for farmers. Sectional control rose to the top of his list as he quickly discovered there hadn’t been any specific studies looking into the cost savings, both monetary and environmental, of the technology.

“When you set off certain sections when you’re overlapping you just avoid double seeding, double fertilization and because of that it can greatly reduce the cost of your inputs,” Rosaasen explains in a phone interview.

With fields including barriers in the form of bushes and wetlands, this technology helps farmers maneuver around them and not over apply on areas already seeded. It also helps discourage farmers from clearing these barriers in their fields, which in some cases are important environmental habitats.

“We’ve seen certain sustainability schemes for sourcing food in food supply chains that now will not allow farmers who either drained wetlands or removed trees, to sell into some of those markets,” Rosaasen says.

Rosaasen’s study was approved and received funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) with the federal government. He also managed to get the attention of colleagues at the Alberta Wheat and Barley commissions, Alberta Canola Producers Commission and the Canola Council of Canada, who volunteered time to help with the study. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry was also involved, however staff reductions since then has reduced the provincial role.

After receiving funding Rosaasen launched into the first year of the study — a literary review of the technology available. The Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) came on board to help with it. The second phase this year will be PAMI testing the technologies in fields surrounding their office at Humboldt, Sask. The third and final phase to be completed next year will be a report on the findings of the study.

PAMI will be testing sectional control technology from manufacturers including Bourgault, Seed Hawk and SeedMaster.

“What we’re trying to do is test three different types of sectional control technologies in the field and look at two different sets of overlap,” Katelyn Gaetz, PAMI agronomist and project lead, says in a phone interview. “I’ll be out there during seeding to monitor information from the producer and then I’ll be out there at emergence to see visually where the overlap is.”

To measure draft in the field, PAMI will be using a load cart, Gaetz explains. This will help them to compare the draft measurements to fuel usage across the field in terms of lifting and lowering sections on a drill.

The group has been receiving interest from the industry about the study. Fertilizer Canada, Nutrien and John Deere have all reached out. Rosaasen says they’re in early discussions with Nutrien to help on the third phase.