DREC Cross-Slot no-till drill

Click here for Photo Slideshow of no-till drill

No-Tillage Seeding book is available for loan. Click here to send request.

Dickinson Research Extension Center staff proposed to develop and assemble a no-till plot drill for use in planting on farm demonstration projects utilizing new technology in low disturbance seeding and fertilizing. The drill must meter and plant seed ranging in size from canola to garbanzo beans. Additional information about the design and construction of this drill may be obtained by contacting Roger Ashley, Area Extension Agronomist or Jim Nelson, DREC Scientist.

The criteria that the Center used in developing the no-till plot drill was:

1) Low Disturbance – studies indicate that low disturbance seeding results in:

         Providing weed seeds less opportunity to germinate and establish.
         Moisture content is maintained in soils.
         Fuel and time conservation.
         Time flexibility.
         Improvement in soil organic matter.
         Preservation of soil structure, earthworms, beneficial soil micro-fauna and micro-flora.
         Prevention of erosion.
         Moderating soil temperatures.
         Improved internal drainage.

2) Accurate placement of seed for uniform germination and emergence. Uneven germination and emergence will create problems with weed control, crop injury, and harvest.

3) Manage large amounts of residue. The drill must handle more than just the “average” amount of residue. Yields have been trending higher. In some years, we plant into 70 and 80 bushel per acre winter wheat stubble, 100 bushel plus per acre barley stubble, and 90 bushel per acre corn stubble. We do not have the luxury of multiple drills to select for a particular situation and besides it is expensive to have extra equipment on hand.

4) Operate under a wide range of conditions. Soil texture, moisture content, and crop residue will vary across a field and between farms so if the drill is to be useful it must be able to perform consistently across a wide range of operating conditions.

5) Provide for separate bands of fertilizer and seed. Seed in contact with high rates of fertilizer results in lower germination rates or damaged seedlings. If adequate amounts of fertilizer materials are going to be applied in a no-till situation at planting time then banding fertilizer separate from seed is required.

6) The drill must seed both small research plots as well as larger demonstration plots. The drill must have the capability to use fluid as well as dry fertilizers. Producers want to see performance of a wide range of practices over a large field in wide ranging conditions.

7) The technology we incorporate into the drill must be available and ready for adaptation and use on the farm today.

8) The plot drill can be no wider than 8 feet and no longer than 14 feet. In addition to these planting conditions, since the Dickinson Research Extension Center plants a number of on-farm demonstrations, the drill and tractor must fit on a 32-foot long trailer. We also need to do this legally so width is important too.

About the opener selected.

The Cross-Slot™ opener developed from research conducted at Massey University, New Zealand and the Agricultural Research Service at Pullman, WA is designed specifically for no-till seeding. The Cross-Slot™ opener uses parallel linkage so the opener follows the irregularities of the soil surface found in no-till conditions. A vertical scalloped coulter cuts through crop residue. A blade on each side of the coulter cuts a horizontal slot. Seed is placed in the horizontal slot created by the left blade and fertilizer is placed in the horizontal slot created by the right blade. A scraper behind each blade on the opener prevents sticky soil and seed from being thrown up onto the surface by the coulter. The two semi-pneumatic wheels on each opener control the depth of penetration as well as pressing the soil and residue back into place thus closing the slot. The horizontal slot created by the blades plus the vertical slot created by the coulter give the opener its name. Fertilizer can be placed deeper than the seed by using a short or a medium length blade for placing the seed and a long blade for placing the fertilizer. Growers in Washington State indicated that they do this for their spring wheat plantings. Separation can be inch to the side and 1 inches below the seed. Up to 300 pounds per acre of urea fertilizer has been applied through a drill equipped with the opener without injury to germinating seed when the fertilizer is place horizontal to the seed according to Dr. Keith Saxton, retired ARS Scientist, Pullman, WA. A hydraulic cylinder on each opener raises and lowers the opener as well as providing constant down pressure to each opener when in the planting position.

Drill Statistics

Total length of drill = 14 feet
Frame width = 8 feet
Total weight empty = 7,760 pounds
Openers = 9 Cross-Slot

Opener Spec

Cross-Slot™ Mark V


Approximately 260 pounds/opener

Minimum mounting area on frame required

10 inches x 38 inches

Scalloped Disc

22 inch diameter

Depth Control

Two three-inch wide pneumatic tires per opener




Each opener has a hydraulic ram capable of 1,500 pounds of force


2 x 4 liters with memory valve, sensor system



Planting depth

3/8 to 3 inches

Blades and Scrapers

Case harden steel

Fertilizer placement in relation to seed placement

Med blade – horizontal or long blade inch horizontal and one inch deep


Width between openers on tool bar = 16 inches
Openers occupy two tool bars.
In field between rows = 8 inches
Finished planting width = 72 inches
Small plot seed metering = Hege belted 5 inch diameter cone system.

  • 9 cones on two frames (5 cones on front frame and 4 cones on back mounted frame)
  • Electric solenoid activated.
  • Rotoseedverteiler II

Cone timing = design by Todd Mayer, Steffes Corporation, Dickinson, ND
Small plot dry fertilizer metering = Single 12 inch diameter cone system.

Liquid Fertilizer System

Two – 60 gallon cone tanks
One – CDS John Blue Company LM-1255 single piston metering pump
Liquid Fertilizer Manifold = Pattison Even-Flo, 9 outlet manifold system

Bulk Dry Fertilizer and Seed Metering System

Salvage from a Melroe 202 drill

Drive wheel

Modified CDS John Blue Company drive wheel system by Dean Kovash, Steffes Corporation, Dickinson, ND

Caster wheels

4,400 pounds per wheel
Tires = 12 ply 14L x 16.1

Final design and manufacturing of the Drill – Steffes Corporation, Dickinson, ND

Engineering – Todd Mayer and Dean Kovash
Fabricators – Larry Kostelecky and Lyle Mayer

Financial support:

ND Barley Council
Western Malting Barley Initiative
ND Dry Pea and Lentil Association
CDS John Blue Company
JR Simplot Company
Pattison Liquid Systems Inc
Gustafson LLC
Syngenta Crop Protection

DISCLAIMER: The information given herein is for educational purposes only. Any reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied by the Dickinson Research Extension staff.


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