indiana Prairie Farmer Logo

Check depth setting after changing disk openers

Unless you make adjustments, expect seed to be placed deeper after installing new openers.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 8, 2024

3 Min Read
device for setting disk depth
CHECK DEPTH SETTING: Pete Illingworth uses the Seed-N-Set device to check depth settings row by row. Photos by Tom J. Bechman

If you changed out seed disk openers at the end of planting last year, before planting this year or during a rainy spell this season, did you recheck depth settings on each row? If not, you may be in for a big surprise.

Pete Illingworth, who operates the planter at the Purdue University Throckmorton Ag Center south of Lafayette, Ind., says if he had not checked depth settings before going to the field this year, he would have been surprised once he dug behind each row.

Since seed opener disks on his John Deere planter were worn to about 14.5 inches in diameter, he switched them for new disk openers, measuring 15 inches in diameter, during preseason maintenance.

“I marked settings for a 2-inch depth with chalk on each row last year,” Illingworth says.  “After switching out disk blades and checking depth row by row, I moved the T-handle up two notches, or a notch on each side of the T-handle bracket,” Illingworth explains. “If I had left them set where they were last year, I would have started out planting 2.5 inches deep on most rows. I never stopped to think about how much difference switching opener blades would make.”

Critical step

Illingworth discovered a year ago that it was important to check depth settings on each row, rather than just positioning the T-handle in the same set of notches per row and rolling on. Before the 2023 season, he used a simple device, called Set-N-Seed, to do what some now call indexing: making sure each planter row is set to plant at the same depth.

“Several rows on our 12-row planter for corn were off, and we adjusted the handle one way or the other,” he recalls. “We could do it all before going to the field. I still get off and dig behind each row on the first pass, but it is a big help to start in the ballpark.”

A close of a settings handle indicating row depth

Using the kit is simple, he says. He simply raises the planter a foot off the ground, sets the T-handle in the deepest setting and slides a floor jack under the row with the Set-N-Seed in place on the jack.

Using plastic blocks, each a half-inch thick, he sets it up for the desired depth — in this case, 2 inches. Then he lifts the jack until disk openers contact the metal strip between the yellow blocks on each side. Move the T-handle up until it stops, and it’s the correct setting for 2 inches on that row.

“We didn’t have much variation in settings row to row this year after changing openers,” Illingworth says. “A couple were a half-notch off one way and another a half-inch the other way.”

The Set-N-Seed kit, a farmer invention, is available from various distributors, or from Set-N-Seed, priced at $185. Visit

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like