The phrase, everything old is new again, is quite common. And when it comes to agriculture, it often rings true. One of those cases is the concept of cross slot seeding.
Cross slot seeding uses a drill that combines low-disturbance planting with fertilizer banding or knifing closer to the seed. This is not a new concept and has been touted on and off over the years as either a groundbreaking concept in farming or a method too risky to employ. Today, thanks to research at different universities throughout the United States, the method is gaining favor.
This is a departure from a time when many in the Ag industry believed that knifing in fertilizer wasn’t worth the risk. The belief was that if fertilizer was placed too close to seed, germination and emergence would suffer and if it was placed too far away from the seed, it was no more effective than surface broadcasting.
However, the cross-slot drill is actually ingenious in its simplicity. The drill has two side blades that run alongside the coulter on opposite sides. These blades lift the soil to create a shelf on either side of the trench. Seed is placed on one shelf and on the other, fertilizer. Air-seeder technology with a press wheel patting the soil down, leaves surface residue intact. This protects the seed and conserves moisture at the same time. Research shows that as long as the fertilizer is within two inches of the seed, germination and emergence improves.
The design of the cross-slot design also maximizes uniform emergence which improves overall plant stand and health and, ultimately, yield. This seems to confirm what many Ag researchers have come to believe as of late-that emergence is more important than placement.
Using narrower row spacing for corn has other significant advantages. One is an increase in pollination. Since corn plants are self-pollinating, this leads to high yielding corn. And this is not a new concept. Years ago, corn seed often was planted in a checkboard pattern to boost pollination. This labor-intensive method of planting died out, however, when herbicides were introduced. While narrower rows may cause a drop in plant population per acre, studies show that there is little reduction in yields from non-uniform stands if the final population remains within 15 percent of its target.
The beauty of the cross-slot drill is that it can plant narrower rows at a lower price. Farmers can use their existing air drills and don’t have to purchase new equipment. What’s more, research shows that when the distance between seeds increases, the need for strict accuracy of spacing decreases.
While cross slot seeding isn’t spreading like wildfire, its popularity is beginning to heat up. And there is no doubt that farmers across the United States are beginning to take notice.