What comes up vs. what went down: comparing seeders for no-till veggies

A few months ago, I wrote about our trials with some push seeders for no-till seeding, and I also posted a video about precision seeders like the Monosem and MaterMacc.

Getting a good stand is the first step toward any successful crop, and this requires that the seeder drop seeds at uniform and desired spacing and depth, that the seed-soil contact is adequate, that nature provides enough moisture and warmth to initiate germination, and that the soil is friable enough for the cotyledons to push their way through.


The Earthway Garden Seeder.

For this trial, we looked at the old standby Earthway Garden Seeder, a push seeder we imported from Brazil made by a company called Knapik, and a Monosem precision vacuum seeder. We calibrated each seeder so we knew how many seeds it dropped on average, and then we seeded beets into three treatments:

  1. No-till into forage radish residue
  2. Into tilled forage radish
  3. Into tilled weeds (no cover crop)
The Knapik seeder imported from Brazil had a robust double disk opener.

The Knapik seeder imported from Brazil had a robust double disk opener.

We found while calibrating the seeders that the Earthway dropped a lot more seeds than we desired, while the Knapik didn’t drop quite enough with the settings we had. You can see those results here. The singulation of seeds on the Knapik is a unique mechanism you can see in the video below. We think an adjustment to the number of seeds dropped could be made easily by adding more holes to the PVC tube.

The results show that a lot of the seeds dropped by the Earthway didn’t end up emerging, whereas the efficiency of the Knapik and the Monosem was relatively high. In other words, a lot of seed was lost when we used the Earthway. The results also show that:

Tilling the soil didn’t result in higher emergence of beet seeds for any of the seeders. 

Seeder EfficiencyAlthough the Knapik seeder needed to drop more seeds to be an effective seeder in this case, it was highly effective (as effective as a precision seeder!) in placing the seeds such that they had a good chance of emerging. The design shows promise as a relatively low-tech tool for small-scale growers to use seed more efficiently. It may also increase the ability to no-till seed into non-ideal soil conditions. The soil conditions for the seeding in this trial were moist, but under dry conditions, other growers have expressed that the Earthway is unable to cut through the soil in an untilled seedbed after radish.

We have two of these Knapik seeders- one in Maryland, and one in Pennsylvania with Charlie White at Penn State. If anyone is interested in trying them out, please contact us.

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