Waste no seed

Darin Anderson is using 10% less seed corn than he used to, and is getting the same or higher yields.

Darin, who farms with his father, Bruce, near Valley City, N.D., varies planting rates on the go. He’s programmed their planter to increase the seeding rate in the most-productive and reduce the rate in the least-productive areas. The least-productive areas are usually sandy hilltops that dry out quickly. If the Andersons had used the same seeding rate across their 1,500 acres of corn last year, they would have dropped 30,000 seeds per acre. That’s the rate it takes to maximize yield on their most productive land.

Key Points

Variable-rate seeding technology helps reduce seed costs.

Varying rates also maximizes yields on different soil types.

Automatic row shutoff feature reduces headland losses.


But hilltops, which make up about 15% of their ground, can’t support that many plants. For example, it was dry in 2006, and the hilltops averaged just 45 bushels per acre (some didn’t produce anything), while the farm averaged 115 bushels per acre.

Last year, they varied the seeding rate from 20,000 seeds per acre on the hilltops to 34,000 on the best areas, ending up with an average of 27,000 seeds per acre. It was a good year, with plenty of moisture and ideal temperatures. Hilltops produced 120 to 150 bushels per acre, and the whole farm averaged 173 bushels per acre.

Darin also uses the planter’s automatic row shutoff. He can program the machine to shut off exactly when the openers reach the headland. Accurate row shutoff saves 1% to 3% in seed and eliminates the 30- to 40-bushel-per-acre yield reductions in double-planted areas.

How he got started

Darin, who serves as president of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, has been varying the seeding rate for several years. He did it manually at first. Then in 2004, when he traded planters, he moved up to automatic, GPS-controlled variable-rate seeding. He had to buy a new GPS/rate controller monitor ($6,000, without a trade-in) and add $1,200 on the software to make the prescription seeding maps.

The investment has been worth it.“We’ve gotten the money back several times over,” Darin says.

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PRECISION SEEDING: Darin Anderson checks corn plant spacing. He varies the seeding rate to match the productivity and water-holding capacity of the soil. Hilltops get less seed per acre. Sidehills and low areas get more. The technology has saved him 10% on seed costs in 2010.

This article published in the January, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.