Corn planting continues across the upper Southeast as growers ready their planters to hit hard peanut and cotton fields this month. Mishaps with planters can cost emergence, yield and money.
University of Georgia Extension engineer Wes Porter and Simer Virk, UGA research engineer doctorate student, put together a data-driven checklist to help growers get off to a good start in 2020.
"Research studies at University of Georgia has shown emergence reductions as large as 30% to 40% in some fields due to improper depth or downforce management. Before planting, growers should consider checking the functioning and performance of these systems to ensure high planter performance," Virk says.
Furrow Opening System
"The furrow opening system consists of double-disc openers, gauge wheels, seed depth and downforce controls. The main goal of this system is to create a well-defined seed trench (furrow) at the desired seeding depth with no side wall compaction or side wall caving in," Virk says
To ensure correct functioning of the furrow opening system:
- Check opening discs for any wear and replace if worn by more than 0.5 inches from the original diameter. Check disc spacing at the point of contact to ensure a V-shape furrow.
- Check gauge wheel arms for any play and use shims or washers to adjust so that gauge wheels run tight against the opening discs.
- Seed depth and downforce should be adjusted carefully to achieve the desired furrow depth without minimum side-wall compaction. Check seed depth setting on each row unit by raising the gauge wheel and measuring the height of opening disc directly below the gauge wheel.
Seed Metering, Delivery System
"The function of a seed metering and delivery system is to meter seeds at the desired seeding rate and deliver metered seeds into the opened furrow. Poor seed metering and delivery system performance can result in lower or higher than target seeding rate and uneven seed spacing both of which can have significant yield implications," he says.
Ways to ensure proper functioning of this system include:
- Seed meters should be examined for any worn or damaged parts, vacuum seals and other internal components. Replace meter parts as needed to ensure correct seed singulation.
- Test seed meters on test stand to check meter performance before field planting. A properly tuned seed meter should provide 99-100% seed singulation with minimal skips or multiples.
- Check seed tubes are in good shape and free of any obstructions. Replace tubes with worn or cracked edges at the bottom.
Furrow Closing System
"A furrow closing system consists of a solid wheel or a pair of closing wheels to close the opened furrow in a manner to provide adequate seed-to-soil contact for timely and uniform emergence. An improperly closed furrow can lead to air pockets resulting in poor seed-to-soil contact and delayed emergence," Virk says.
Considerations for setup and proper functioning of a furrow closing system include:
- Ensure that closing wheels are perfectly aligned behind the disc openers to achieve even performance on either side of the trench.
- Check spring setting on closing wheels to ensure adequate pressure on the furrow during closing action. They should not be excessively tight or too loose.
- Carefully select closing wheels (single solid press wheel, two solid wheels or one solid and one spiked) based on the soil type and tillage conditions in the field.
Other planter considerations include:
- Parallel linkages that connects individual row-units to main toolbar should be checked for play. Replace bushings and bolts as needed to reduce any side movement.
- All drive chains, sprockets, and bushings should be checked for rust and replaced as needed. Chains should be adjusted to proper tension.
- If planting in strip-till or no-till conditions, adjust row-cleaner height so they barely touch the residue and move it out of the way without interfering with the soil bed.
- Make sure to level the planter and check if toolbar is operating horizontal with the ground during field operation.
Growers should also consult the operator’s manual on recommended settings for different planter components, he says.
"Growers should remember while making these planting decisions that they only have one chance of getting that seed in the ground, and that time and effort put into planter setup now will save them from regrets and some hard to make replanting decisions later," Virk says.