Sod Seeding

Sod Seeding

Energy Consumption and Agronomic Benefits of Conventional and Zero Tillage Seeding Systems


  • Gerald Mathiot
  • Patrick Mathiot
  • Mike Richter
  • Patrick Elsen
  • Caouette and Sons 


  1. To compare different seeding equipment in a sod seeding situation.
  2. Track fuel usage for four seeding methods.
  3. Compare the agronomics of a seeded crop between four seeding methods.
  4. Compare final yields of the different seeding systems.


A quarter section near Goodridge, Alberta (NE 5 63-09 W4) was used for this demonstration. The field was sprayed out in the fall of 2009; it had been a hay field (alfalfa/grass mixture) for about 10 years. Soil was tested in the spring to determine field nutrient levels.

The field was divided into 4 treatment areas based on 4 seeding systems. (Table 23) 

  • Treatment 1- Conventional tillage (23.42 acres)
  • Treatment 2 – ConservaPak (15.3acres)
  • Treatment 3 – John Deere 750 disc drill (16.6 acres)
  • Treatment 4 – Agrowdrill (17.65 acres)

Fuel meters were used to measure fuel consumption during seeding and any subsequent activity in the field (Table 24).

All treatments were seeded to oats (AC Morgan) at 110 lbs/ac using the same seed lot, fertilizer blend and rate.   The area of the treatments was measured using GPS.  Plant counts were taken after the crop emerged on May 27, 2010 (Table 25). Observations were taken throughout the season on the treatments.

The trials were harvested at the beginning of October with a John Deere pull type combine. The oats were augered into a feed wagon to be weighed and then transferred to a grain bin.  Final yield was taken from the total weights and bushel weights of the treatments (Table 26).


After seeding there were good visuals as to the amount of disturbance each seeding system produced. The John Deere and Conventional tillage treatments were very smooth while the AgrowDrill and ConservaPak had more disturbance; these two treatments were rolled.

The ConservaPak treatment was seeded later then the other treatments but had “caught up” by the time the plant counts were completed (Table 25). The ConservaPak had the most uniform plant stand although on average it had the least amount of plants per unit area.

The AgrowDrill needed a broadcast application of fertilizer and at the time of the tour (June 29) there appeared to be many spots on the field were the oats were lighter in color. This may have been due to a fertilizer deficiency brought on by the broadcast application. This made the treatment the poorest treatment visually.

The ConservaPak treatment took the longest to canopy.  This was especially evident at the time of the plot tour.  This was probably due to the wider seed rows.

As expected the fuel consumption is a lot higher in the conventional seeded treatment (Table 24). There were so many more passes that were made and many more hours spent seeding. The fuel consumption of the AgrowDrill was not recorded so an estimate was made. This number is the average of the other two zero till seeding systems.

The final yields showed an advantage for the Conventional and ConservaPaK systems. Visually the cooperators could only see a difference in the Agrowdrill treatment.

There was some concern from the cooperator that the ConservaPak treatement would not provide enough support for a swath since the row spacing was so wide. This did not happen when the crop was harvested as the swath combined just as easily as the other treatments at the same moisture content.

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Energy Consumption and Agronomic Benefits of Conventional and Zero Tillage Seeding Systems, Part 2


  • Richard Michaud
  • Francois Hebert
  • Lee Pederson
  • Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (ECEE)
  • County of St. Paul


  1. To determine the fuel usage and yield differences in four different seeding systems, seeding into sod.


This is the second year LARA has worked in cooperation with local farmers to compare the fuel usage in different seeding systems when seeding into hay or pasture land.  There used to be a need to ‘break’ the land through tillage when planting annual crops into perennial forage stands. Conventional tillage is still an effective method of land preparation but with the advent of reduced tillage seeders it is no longer the only option.


On May 16, 2011 Richard Michaud sprayed his hay field south of Mallaig with 2 L/ac of RoundUp Transorb.  He decided to spray the whole field, including the tillage treatment, because of the amount of quackgrass in the field.

Richard tilled an area of 13 acres twice with a Krause 5812WR Breaking Disc (Table 21). The area was then heavy harrowed by a neighbor who did not have his fuel measured.  After calling the neighbour, a good estimate was made the fuel usage.

The field was seeded on May 27 and 28 using Morgan oats with a seeding rate of 3 bu/ac. Fertilizer was banded at 155 lbs/ac (33-10-8). There was no soil test done on the field.

Richard seeded the tilled land (13ac) and part of the untilled land (31 ac) with his Hay Buster 8000.   Francois Hebert seeded 23 ac with a 2011 John Deere ConservaPak. A John Deere disc air drill was also brought to the field but because of the dry soil condition it was unable to sink deep enough into the soil for seeding.  At the time of seeding there had been no rainfall. Fuel use was recorded (Table 22).

Plant stand counts were taken at the end of June (Table 3). The field was combined on Sept 27 and 28.  Fuel usage was not recorded for spraying, rolling and harvest because the fuel usage would have been the same over the whole field.  Richard left a strip the length of the field in each treatment for yield analysis. Four samples were taken from each strip with LARA’s small plot combine from which yields were determined and then averaged (Table 4).  Bushel weights and 1000 kernel weights were also taken.


When I walked the fields on June 8 I noticed some germination of the oats but it had been slow to come because of the lack of moisture and cool weather. Visually I thought the ConservaPak did a better job of seed placement than the Haybuster, there were areas of seed on the surface in the Haybuster treatment.

Plant stand counts were higher in the ConservaPak treatment than the other two. There was very little difference between the Haybuster and Conventional tillage treatments.

The main story in this trial is the amount of fuel that is needed to break land that has been in hay or pasture.  The fuel usage was 10 times higher with conventional tillage!  The conventional tillage treatment was also a lot rougher than the rest of the field and may require more prep next year to get it ready.

This is similar to the trial LARA was a part of last year near Goodridge, Alberta. The fuel usage at the Goodridge site was about 5 times higher in the conventional tillage treatment than the direct seeded treatments.  The Goodridge site was sprayed in the fall and this year’s site at Mallaig was sprayed in the spring. The higher fuel on the conventional treatment this year was probably due to the extra effort needed to break land that was sprayed out in spring. The two trials point towards a potential for large fuel savings if you spray out your hay in fall as opposed to spring.  You also can get a better kill on perennials with a fall spray because they are translocating nutrients to their roots for winter.

The yield data in Table 4 shows no difference in yields between treatments. The drought would have favored the direct seeding treatments but the cold weather probably gave the conventional tillage treatment an advantage.  At the end of the year there was no statistical difference between treatments and Richard said he did not notice any yield difference while he was combining.

Funding for this trial was provided by Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (ECEE) through Alberta Agriculture.

Thanks to Richard Michaud and Francois Hebert for partnering with us on this trial!

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