What is aerial seeding?
Aerial seeding is the use of aircraft to spread seeding on agricultural field. The technique of sowing is fast, efficient with high rate of success. This broadcast seeding is used to spread legumes, vegetable seeds, grasses. The method is applicable to inaccessible areas to reduce erosion, fires and grow crops. Aircrafts used for aerial seeding are drones, helicopters and plane.
Types of crops seeded
Types of crops seeded are soybeans, buckwheat, oats, and corn. Others are hairy vetch, maize, winter wheat, Sudan grass, perennial rye.
- Winter wheat
- Sudan grass
- Perennial rye
Advantage of aerial seeding
Traditional drilling method though highly effective is labor intensive. There is also the problem of time, field coverage, and difficulty in accessing remote areas.
Advantages of aerial seeding are fast coverage of vast or remote areas, quick effective seeding. The method reduces time for seeding and covers a vast area. Another advantage is only one person control the craft effectively reducing labor costs.
- coverage of vast or remote areas
- quick effective seeding
- reduces time for seeding
- effectively reduction of labor costs
History of aerial seeding dates back to 1931 in Ohio in United States of America. In Oregon seeding was done to 100 acres of grassland, at Port Orford cedar over 1000 acres of land in 1947.
According to National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAVA) Lt John A Macready first used the method to crop dust catalpa trees with arsenate to kill sphix moth larvae.
By 1930 the method was applied to repopulate forest land due to the advent of deforestation. The technique is applicable to hard to reach mountain areas, dense forests, farm lands. Early commercial application of seeding was done by veteran pilots after the Second World War. However today technology has improved to GPS based navigation, site mapping, turbo engines and drones.
Appropriate soil moisture conditions is mandatory for proper seeding. Soil moisture of 0.5 -1 inch of moist is perfect condition for aerial seeding. It is important for farmers to maintain this moist condition within the 7 -10 days of seeding.
The reason moist condition is essential includes fast germination of seed, easy introduction to soil and prevention of seed laying on soil surface. Most seed on soil surface are subject to predation, wind conditions, insects or animals. Therefore friable moist conditions with loose, rough surface, residue cover or cracked surface will encourage easy germination. Therefore timing is important for aerial seeding to succeed.
Why moist soil condition is important
- fast germination of seed
- easy introduction to soil
- prevention of seed laying on soil surface
- encourage easy germination
- enables appropriate timing
The best time to seed aerial crops is when soil has moist conditions within 7-10 days. Although drilled method is more efficient and guarantees seeding, aerial seeding is faster and covers larger area. The downside of aerial seeding is slower drilling than traditional seeding methods.
Drill seeding requires less seeds to achieve optimum concentration. However aerial seeding rate is estimated at 50% seeding more. Unfortunately the higher seeding rate is moderately wasteful however it achieves same results as traditional drilling method.
Types of Aircrafts
- Agricultural drones
It has been established that aircraft is the method used for aerial seeding. However other applications are found in agricultural drones, planes or helicopter. Drones are less practicable because they have limited weight of seeds they carry.
Although planes cover a vast area however faster accuracy is a serious problem. Helicopter on the other hand a best because they easily hover on seedling fields.
The wind generated by the helicopter blades facilitate easier spread. The canopy spread easily reach soil and establishes the crop. Another advantage of helicopter seeding is easy maneuverability over the field, better targeting, seed dispersion.