"Double Seeding" Boosts Wheat Yields

"You almost can't believe it if you don't see it with your own eyes," says Dave Ryden, a Hallock, Minn., farmer and manufacturer who's boosted yields more than 50% and totally eliminated the need for herbicides by "double seeding" wheat with a home-built, 2-in-1, narrow-row grain drill he built from two Deere drills.

Ryden has been experimenting with double seeding for the past 4 years. He seeds side-by-side comparison fields of wheat and barley, comparing crops sown at a normal 1 1/2 bu. per acre rate with crops sown at 3 bu. per acre.

"We picked the weediest field on our farm to test the ability of heavy-seeded grain to compete with weeds without chemicals. In the 64 acre field we double seeded 20 acres of barley and seeded the rest of the field with wheat at 1 1/2 bu. per acre rate. We had to spray the wheat three times for wild oats, buckwheat, smart weed and later for broadleaf weeds. We didn't do any spraying in the heavily seeded barley crop and you couldn't see any weeds in it. At harvest there was no lodging and, even though it was a poor year for barley in our area with yields at 40 to 45 bu. acre, we averaged 62 bu. per acre in our double seeded crop with no dockage. Test weight and protein content were surprisingly high," says Dave Ryden.

In 1987, Ryden compared single-seeded wheat with double-seeded wheat. "This time we used the best ground on our farm and put on double fertilizer to see what would happen. We couldn't believe our eyes. You could stand in the 1 1/2 bu. per acre field and see right to the ground. But, when you stepped over into the double-seeded crop, you couldn't see anything but heads. We had 200 acres of double-seeded wheat and used no chemicals. Yields aver-aged nearly 70 bu. per acre versus less than 50 bu. per acre on the single-seeded acres. One surprise was that the heads in the double-seeded grain were longer than the heads in the single-seeded grain. You would expect the opposite. An agronomy professor who's been following our experiments told us he thinks the heads were longer because the dense canopy keeps the soil from crusting and drying out. The soil in the single-seeded fields was badly crusted. He also said that we could have a fungus problem in wet years due to higher population seeding. We haven't had the problem yet, though, in 4 years of double-seeding," says Ryden.

He and his son, Dave Ryden, Jr., built the double drill by combining two 12-ft., 7-in. spaced LL Deere drills to make a 3 1/2-in. spaced drill. The press wheels from the front drill are all mounted on the back drill so each disc opener is followed by a press wheel. Specially built harrow teeth behind each disc opener throws moist soil back over the seed, mixing enough dry soil with the moist so the press wheels will not build up with mud. (These harrow teeth work so well Ryden now manufactures them to fit other drills.) He says that by harrowing as he seeds he can eliminate another trip over the field and get more moisture to the seed for faster germination. "We have not converted any other drills to double-seeding so we don't know how difficult it would be with other models. However, if there is enough interest, we hope to begin manufacturing double drills using existing, used equipment," says Ryden.

Some farmers and researchers who've taken a look at Ryden's experiments say double-seeding could be a problem in a dry year. "I don't agree with that. My theory is that if weeds can grow in between the rows, which they still will do even in a dry year, you'd be better off to grow wheat there. Weeds use more moisture than grain," he says.