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Put planter away correctly to avoid future headaches

Time spent decommissioning the planter the right way could be worth hundreds of dollars an hour.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

May 23, 2024

2 Min Read
dirty row units on a planter
READY FOR THE SHED? There’s dirt on the wheels and seed in the boxes. Planter specialist Josh Stoller urges farmers to not put the planter away permanently until it is cleaned and checked for needed repairs. Tom J. Bechman

It’s go-go and rush-rush until the last acre is planted. Do you put the planter away permanently then? Probably not. You park it, hoping you don’t need it again. You hold your breath until everything is up and it’s too late to replant if a storm hits. At that point, how excited are you to clean up the planter and put it away properly? Not very keen on it, right?

What if someone told you it was worth $500 per hour, $1,000 per hour or even more to do it right? Would that get your attention? Figuring exact numbers for decommissioning the planter properly after the season ends might take a master’s thesis, but it’s a safe bet that the return on your investment in time and labor is higher than for many other things you might do on a summer day.

2025 planter prep starts now

Before spring 2024 arrived, Josh Stoller was asked about his thoughts on planter maintenance. Stoller is a planter specialist with Precision Planting who farms with family members in central Illinois.

“For us, planter maintenance for 2025 will begin after we are certain that the 2024 planting season is over,” he said. “The first priority is to fix what obviously needs fixing now before we store it away for fall and winter.”

Why worry about making repairs on the planter now when you could wait until winter? “How it performed and what needs repairing is fresh on our mind now,” Stoller explained. “Too many things might be forgotten by next winter or spring. Besides, if we determine what parts we need now, we are more likely to get them in a timely manner instead of waiting until next year and risking waiting for parts.

“Not everyone has recovered from the COVID-era shortages and supply struggles yet. Some parts may need to be ordered. We want to make sure we won’t have to wait for parts when we are near planting season again.”

Planter maintenance steps

Emptying seed boxes and washing mud and grime from ground-contact parts and the planter frame are no-brainers, Stoller added. Those steps can be done while the planter is still outside or in the shop.

If you apply fertilizer off the planter, be sure to clean those systems carefully, he said. Most fertilizers, especially nitrogen-based fertilizer, are corrosive and can damage planter hoses and parts quickly if residue is allowed to remain.

Even if you have a vacuum planter instead of an older finger-pickup planter, it uses seed disks, Stoller noted. “We prefer taking the disks out before we put the planter away,” he said. “We usually spray meters with an aerosol graphite spray.”

Stoller said they prefer leaving the disks out so seals on vacuum units can “rest.” Disks are stacked and stored in a secure place.

Other maintenance steps may be recommended by the planter manufacturer. Refer to the owner’s manual for more end-of-season tips.

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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.

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