Farm Progress

Top 10 preseason planter inspection tips

Take time now to check your planter, so it’s ready to go when fields are ready.

March 20, 2017

4 Min Read
PLANTER PERFORMANCE: Uniformity of plant emergence, planting timing, plant population and evenness of plant spacing are four outcomes of planting that can influence final corn yield, according to a 2016 study of 12 Midwest farmers’ fields.

A successful planting season starts with a fine-tuned planter. A planter that has worn parts or is poorly adjusted has an adverse impact on yields, as documented by university and machinery company research. Last year, Agco’s White Planting Co. conducted trials in 12 farmers’ fields across the Midwest. The company’s engineers and agronomists evaluated the impact variation in seed spacing, depth and down-pressure has on yield. Variations from ideal spacing and depth reduced yields anywhere from 7 to 25 bushels per acre.

By far, a skip is the planting outcome that contributes the most to yield loss, whereas occasional doubles have no negative impact, the study shows.

DuPont Pioneer agronomists have put together a quick checklist for growers who are getting their planters ready to put the 2017 corn and soybean crops in the ground this spring. The agronomists’ suggestions range from leveling the planter and checking bushings and parallel linkage, to calibrating corn meters and testing double-disk openers and depth wheels to adjust row cleaners.

10 preseason planter tips

They suggest you go through this quick checklist before you start planting this spring.

1. Level the planter. Check the hitch height. The tractor hitch height may vary due to the tractor tire size, tractor manufacturer, and the type of planter (drawbar vs. two-point hitch). Refer to the planter operator's manual for setup. Make sure the planter's toolbar is level (vertically) or running slightly uphill. When planters tip down, coulters run too deep and closing wheels run too shallow.

2. Check bushings and parallel linkage. Worn bushings increase row bounce, which increases seed bounce. Stand behind the row unit and wiggle it up and down and back and forth checking to make sure bushings are tight.

3. Drive system. Check every chain. Kinked chains cause shock and vibration in the meter. Start with fresh, lubricated chains and check them daily. Include transmission chains, meter drive chains and insecticide box chains.

4. Calibrate corn meters. Calibrated meters can help add 6 or more bushels per acre. On finger units, check brushes, fingers, springs, back plates and seed belts for wear. On air or vacuum planters, check brushes, gaskets, and disks or drums for cracks or wear. Replace all worn parts. A good cleaning will also help improve performance. It is recommended having finger units set on a MeterMax planter stand.

5. Double-disk openers and depth wheels. For double disk openers, test to make sure there is good contact between the double disks. Slide a business card from the top down along the front of the disks until the card won't lower any further. Mark that spot with chalk. Then, take the card from the back and slide it forward until it stops. Mark that spot and measure the distance between the two marks. If it is less than 2 inches, reshape or replace the disks. In general, the disks must be replaced when they lose a half-inch in diameter.

For depth wheels, check rubber tires for cracks and wear. Wheels should run tight against double -disk openers to ensure seed furrow does not collapse. Reduced inner-diameter gauge wheels help to reduce sidewall compaction in wetter conditions, such as reduced till or no-till.

6. Seed tubes. Inspect seed tubes for wear at the bottom. If the tubes have a small dog ear flap on the left side of the seed tube, turn constantly. They should gently turn sporadically, especially through areas of thick residue. If necessary, you should replace them.

7. Closing wheel system. Consider an alternative to rubber closing wheels. For cool, moist planting conditions, take a look at running one spike wheel (15 inches) and one rubber wheel (13 inches). The spike wheel can help chop the sidewall, improving soil fracturing and sealing in the tough soil conditions.

For no-till, an even more aggressive approach may improve trench closing. Two 13-inch spike wheels with a drag chain provide the most aggressive action.

8. Closing wheel alignment. With your planter sitting on concrete, pull ahead about 5 feet. Look at the mark left behind the planter by the double-disk openers. The mark should run right down the centerline between the closing wheels. If a closing wheel is running too close to the mark, adjust the closing wheels to bring it back to center.

9. Row cleaners. With higher levels of residue and more corn on corn, almost any planter can benefit from well-adjusted row cleaners. Row cleaners sweep residue from the row, warming the soil around the seed trench, and reducing wicking and seedling blight. Make sure row cleaners gently sweep residue; you don’t want to move soil, just crop residue. Watch the row cleaners as they are running.

10. Get organized. Have your crop field plans by variety and populations organized. Also have your seed ready, planter monitors working and programmed, and tractors and tenders in tune.

Source: DuPont Pioneer, Agco White Planters

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