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Washington farmers gather to help design a deep-furrow drill

More than 100 farmers meeting in Ritzville, Wash., helped set the stage for building “conservation-friendly” deep-furrow drill prototypes to replace existing John Deere HZ and International 150 drills.

“There was general consensus from focus groups,” says William Schillinger, a research agronomist from Washington State University who organized the meetings.

“As a result of the meetings, there are currently two prototype design efforts under way,” he adds. One is led by the McGregor Co., where work focuses on retrofitting an existing MZ solid-packer demonstration drill for use under deep-furrow conditions in tilled fallow, he says.

Schillinger says the second effort at the WSU Dryland Research Station, where Schillinger is superintendent, is working with Barnes Welding of Waterville, Wash., to develop a better split-packer drill prototype.

Key Points

• Construction of a prototype deep-furrow drill is under way.

• Growers are designing their own version to fit local needs.

• Producers met to discuss needs in the prototype.


Growers gathering at the sessions expressed enthusiastic support for a new drill to replace Deere and International models, which they say aren’t serving the specific needs of producers who have trouble passing through the heavy residue on their farms without plugging. That, growers say, limits the potential of conservation tillage in the region.

Few growers seed as deeply as producers in the central Washington area. Planting at depths of 8 inches or more is necessary to take advantage of low
soil-profile moisture.

The redesigned drill, says Schillinger, “must be able to pass through and retain residue, and it must provide deep and precise seed placement.”

Interest in revamping the drill concept is considered a hallmark in the region’s coming of age as a conservation farming area.

Features of the new drill attendees found beneficial were the following:

• A larger-diameter packer wheel assembly than existing drills reduces soil pushing in deep-tillage mulches and passes through soil and retains residue better.

• The drill has a longer angle of slope on the packer wheel over existing models. This is important to reduce soil rollback into the furrow and better provide for deeper and more stable furrow ridges.

• It has a cutting tool such as a large-diameter fluted coulter in front of each opener to cut through heavy residue, if needed.

Packer wheel diameter

Diameters of Deere and International packer wheels are 26 and 27 inches, respectively. The diameter of the prototype is 36 inches (see diagram).

The width of one Deere HZ packer half (one-half of the split-packer assembly) is 2.4 inches; the slope angle is 27 degrees; and the slope length is 3.5 inches.

The International 150 packer half width is 2 inches, slope angle is 47 degrees, and slope length is 3 inches.

Plans for the prototype call for a packer half width of 4 inches, a slope angle of 35 degrees and a slope length of 5.6 inches.

Three complete prototype packer wheels (six halves) were recently made in Seattle, and “we are ready to begin fabricating an 8-foot-wide frame with four toolbars at Lind,” Schillinger said in April. Startup funds for the effort were provided by the Columbia Plateau PM 10 Project.

“The Washington Conservation Commission has expressed strong interest in this project as well,” Schillinger notes. “They are committed to protecting soil from wind erosion in the winter wheat-summer fallow region.”

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prototype ILLUSTRATION: A front view of prototype packer wheels (right) compared with existing drills show the large increase growers seek in the new units.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.