The Right Tool for the Job
By Barry Coker, Reclamation Specialist, Bamert Seed
The biggest bottleneck that we deal with when it comes to helping our customers establish native vegetation is the availability of the right equipment to use and an understanding of how to use it. When I started writing this article, I has visions of grandeur that I would be able to explain all of the intricacies of the different types of equipment and their respective applications. The further I got into it I began to realize that there are so many things to mention that if I were to cover every important aspect of every pertinent piece of equipment, I would end up with something that resembled a House Bill but was read by even fewer people. Instead, I have decided to put together something that I hope is far less painful to read and far more useful. Here is a basic outline of the equipment commonly used to plant various grass seeds.
I. Grain Drills (often referred to as wheat drills)
- One seed box intended for small grains
- No agitator
- No picker wheels
- WILL NOT work for planting native grass seed (or any fluffy seed)
II. Grass Seed Drills (often referred to as grass drill)
- Usually 3 seed boxes (Small Seed box, Fluffy Seed box, Grain box)
- Has an agitator
- Has picker wheels
- Will work great for planting native grasses under most circumstances
B. Drop Seeder
- Often referred to as “Brillion” (Brillion is actually a brand but it has become a generic term much like Kleenex, Coke, or Crescent wrench.)
- Drop Seeders are NOT drills.
- They drop the seed in front of or between cultipackers.
- Can work great for planting native grass seed if the seed bed is prepared properly.
- Also has to have an agitator and picker wheels to plant native grass seed.
C. Broadcast Seeder
- THE piece of equipment that most people have access to.
- Not the most ideal delivery method due to the lack of seed-soil contact achieved.
- Often the most practical delivery method due to availability and ability to work “good enough” on small area plantings.
- We recommend that the area be “rolled” or “drug” after the seed is broadcast to increase seed-soil contact and mitigate seed loss.
- It is common practice (often times specified) that seeding rates be doubled when broadcast seeding.
- If planting native blends with a broadcast seeder, the different species will not be as evenly distributed across the area due to differences in seed size, weight, texture, etc.
- Fluffy seed will not flow through all broadcast spreaders, Some do not have a large enough agitator and the seed will bridge up.
D. Hydroseeding (adding seed to hydromulch slurry)
- Poor seed-soil contact
- The most expensive delivery method per area
- Least practical on large areas with low threat of erosion
- Most practical on critical areas where other equipment is unsafe and immediate stabilization is necessary
- It should be noted that Hydroseeding and Hydromulching are two different things. If your budget allows it, drill seeding then hydromulching over the top of it is a very effective way of establishing native vegetation. Hydroseeding is ideal when the terrain is so steep or rough that it is unsafe or the area to be seeded simply cannot be reached with any other type of equipment.
Of course there are many different brands, colors, shapes, and sizes of all of the aforementioned but I’m not going to get into those weeds with you. When deciding which piece of equipment to use, consideration should be given to the terrain, soil type, and seed bed. When seeding rough rangeland, you shold consider using a no-till drill but when returning farmland to native vegetation, more often than not, dropseeders work brilliantly. Success on a reclamation project is the culmination of a lot of different things coming together. Having the right tool for the job and an understanding of how and when to use it will increase your likelihood of success.