Top Crop Manager

Features Agronomy Seeding/Planting
Direct seeding into sod cuts fuel consumption by 84 percent

November 30, 1999  By Top Crop Manager

Taking an old forage stand out of production used to be a job for the sod-busters. Double disc, plow and cultivate used to be the norm, but there is a growing movement toward direct seeding into glyphosate-terminated sod. Driven by economics, farmers and agronomists are finding sod seeding produces substantial savings in fuel, labour and machinery repairs. “More farmers are discovering significant fuel savings found with direct seeding an annual crop into sod. Alberta Reduced Tillage LINKAGES agronomists really championed the practice, and now producer groups are carrying on the demonstrations,” explains Janette McDonald. “Understanding and improving fuel efficiency in sod management will have a significant impact on energy use on Alberta’s farms.”

As part of the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta’s (ARECA) Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (ECEE) project, McDonald is helping demonstrate the energy savings of sod seeding. The objective is to demonstrate to farmers that sod seeding can be done successfully, and also to demonstrate to the general public that farmers continue to adopt energy-efficient and sustainable practices.

The ECEE project had various demonstrations across the province in 2010 and compared fuel use on sod-seeded and conventionally seeded fields. There are about 12 million acres of perennial forage production in Alberta, compared to 19 million acres of annual crops. 


Several of ARECA’s non-profit producer groups measured fuel consumption, including the Chinook Applied Research Association (CARA) in east-central Alberta, Lakeland Agricultural Research Association (LARA) in northeastern Alberta and the Battle River Research Group (BRRG) in central Alberta. Farmer co-operators were given fuel meters and asked to record fuel consumption for their field operations. Four sod-seeded fields were compared to a conventionally terminated field.

On average, the sod-seeded field used 2.51 L/ac compared to 15.76 L/ac for conventional termination and seeding. Sod seeding resulted in a fuel savings of 84 percent.

There are other costs incurred for sod seeding, such as those for glyphosate application to terminate the stand and  application. On the other hand, conventional plow-down has high capital costs for machinery, high operating costs for wear and tear on equipment, high labour costs for time spent on tillage, and the risk/cost of soil erosion on fragile forage lands.

Considering all the costs, McDonald believes sod seeding comes out on top. “Generally, over years of demonstrations and producer experiences, sod seeding has proven to be an economical method of terminating forage stands and establishing a annual crop,” says McDonald. “The fuel measurement component tells the fuel-efficiency part of the story.”

This article is printed with permission of the Agriculture Research and Extension Council of Alberta.


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