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Set-up your seeds for success: the great Keeton debate

Laying to rest the negativity towards Seed Firmers

Struggling to get good emergence with your planter in no-till?  Inadequate seed firming is often the culprit.  Seeds should be securely embedded into the bottom of the furrow.  You might be pleasantly surprised at how well your crops emerge with the Keeton and Mojo Wire combo—you owe it to yourself to try them!

We at Exapta urge you to re-evaluate how you achieve seed-to-soil contact. In loose tilled soil, planter press wheels (aka smooth closing wheels) could easily pack the soil from the surface all the way down to the seed. But this method is seriously flawed for no-till’s firm, structured soils, since enormous pressure must be applied at the surface to do any seed firming, which severely packs the sidewalls and soil over the seed, to your detriment.

Why not apply a precise pressure exactly where it’s needed—at the seed’s location? The Keeton seed firmer was a good idea, but it alone only applies 3 lbs of pressure (at most) and they lose their tension quickly.

The Mojo Wire solves this by supplying up to 3x more pressure to the Keeton. Customers are frequently amazed at the magnitude of improved germination—in higher percentages of seeds emerging, and in uniformity of timing of emergence.

An independent study in Illinois in 2011—the only independent study we know of—found a 6.4% increase in corn ear counts with Mojo Wires, and yield gains are often even greater in tough conditions—from our experience, and from what our customers report.

If you’ve had problems with Keetons in the past, or heard of troubles and got worried, reconsider the Keetons in combination with the Mojo Wire from Exapta. The Mojo Wire is the solution!

We field two common complaints time-and-time again from Keeton skeptics: 

Complaint #1 – Mud build-up on the Keeton.

The Mojo Wire eliminates most of the mud accumulation problems that have occurred in the past, and this is especially true in no-till. If you cut a cleanly defined furrow in a structured no-till soil, the Keeton shape ‘fills’ the furrow and wipes its lower edges clean so long as it has sufficient pressure to hold itself down in the furrow. A crisply defined furrow is the normal result of a well-adjusted planter in true no-till soils except when cutting coulters or RID gauge tires are used, or if fertilizer side-band openers are operating too close to the row unit.

Complaint #2 – Keetons drag seed. 

This is a nasty rumor! We’ve been looking for 20 years, and have never seen it—and we’ve studied it extensively on a wide variety of planters and soil types. The only way we can imagine a Keeton could drag seed is in the following set of very specific circumstances: A) the Keeton having essentially no pressure on the tail, B) mucky wet high-clay soil, and C) loose unstructured soil (tilled seedbed). Basically what would need to occur would be an accumulation of mud on the underside of the Keeton—and this would never occur if the Keeton had sufficient pressure, hence why the Mojo Wire is so important.

Because of the increased pressure from the Mojo Wire, Keeton wear is accelerated—but at least it’s doing its job! (If it didn’t supply any seed-to-soil contact, it would never wear out. But it wouldn’t do any good either, other than slightly reducing seed bounce.) Because of faster wear on the Keeton tail, Mojo Wires aren’t intended for use with Low-Profile (LP) Keeton models—they would wear out unacceptably quickly. Fortunately, there’s not much reason to want the Low-Profile models once you’ve seen the mud-cleaning action created by the Mojo Wire (especially in combination with a crisply defined furrow in no-till).

Here’s a video from one of our customers who did his own in-field testing:

A question we commonly field is “how much pressure is too much”?

In no-till and even low-disturbance tillage, the seed firmer is not going to push the seed deeper than what the furrow is cut. The Keeton firmer is too blunt to push the seed any deeper. (Compare in-furrow ‘seed-lock’ wheels supplying 10 – 20 lbs of pressure on a similar surface area, precisely at the bottom of the furrow.)

Last point, beware of another product called “Rebounder”. It is NOT a seed firmer. The Rebounder is simply a seed bounce flap and can be an in-furrow fertilizer applicator, but those are its only two functions, as it cannot firm or embed the seed in the bottom of the seed trench.

In no-till planting, Keetons with Mojo Wires are a must to “set your seed up for success”. It may be the best ROI upgrade you can do to your planter to achieve even emergence!

Chris Horton

Chris Horton brings 25 years of management with him. He grew up on his grandparents farm in Reno County Kansas where they mainly grew wheat and cattle feed. He worked on feed lots as a pen rider and cow-calf operations before moving to Southern California where Chris started a new career in the transportation and transport logistics, eventually managing the western region for a large commercial vehicle leasing company. Chris moved home to Kansas, to manage a local Farmers Coop and then eventually the service dept for a tractor dealership. The opportunity to join the Exapta team came up, and he knew he wanted to be a part of this team.

Bob Pagel

Sales & Service Representative

Prior to joining Exapta, Bob Pagel was an Agricultural Territory Sales Manager for Ritchie Brothers, serving parts of MN, WI and IA. He continues to support his family farm in SE Minnesota

Jon Zeller

Current Product Engineer

Jonathan Zeller joined Exapta excited to return to working with no-till planting equipment. He supported research of no-till planting and other ag related projects for 7 years with Kansas State University’s Agricultural Engineering Department after getting his engineering degree. He later worked 3 years for Landoll Company, LLC. where he gained experience in a design engineering role. Jonathan grew up on a small family farm in NE Kansas working with row crops, hay and cattle. Jonathan enjoys solving engineering problems and improving or creating products to be robust and easy to install and service.