Wallaces Farmer

Is your planter really ready?

You may be ready to start planting, but is your equipment ready to hit fields?

Rod Swoboda

April 9, 2024

3 Min Read
Farmer working on fixing a planter
PREPLANTING ADJUSTMENTS: Taking time to make planter adjustments prior to planting can help achieve consistent seedling emergence. Betty Haynes

Spring 2024 planting season is here. If you have crop insurance coverage, the earliest allowed date for corn planting in Iowa is April 10. This applies statewide.

The earliest planting date for soybeans in Iowa is also April 10 for the southern three tiers of counties and April 15 for the rest of Iowa.

Crops planted before the specified earliest planting date for your area will not be eligible for replanting payments from crop insurance if you end up having to replant.

With these dates in mind, spring planting will start as soon as weather allows. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to make a list of items to check and get completed before you go to the field.

Review your checklist

“Planting seed at the right time, at the right seed depth and in acceptable soil conditions is critical to giving the crop the best starting point to reach your yield goals,” says Doug Houser, Iowa State University Extension digital ag specialist.

Whether you have brand-new equipment or not, the maintenance checklist remains the same. Houser reviews the critical maintenance points for each piece of equipment. He provides links to more in-depth information online to help guide you to ensure each piece is ready. Examine these pieces of equipment:

Tractors. Check tire pressure, machine ballasting, batteries, belts, hoses and oil levels. Read the article Are you getting the most out of your tractor? for more information.

Tillage equipment. Ensure tillage tools are level from front to back and side to side, and adjusted properly to help provide a uniform seedbed for planting. The article Are you planting on a level playing field? has information to help assist in these settings.

Planter. Check the planter tires, tire pressure, row units, hoses, belts and electrical wiring. More specifics can be found in the article Planter “pre-flight” checklist.

Iowa State University - Planters wheels

Depth and closing systems

Two areas that need to be checked on the planter are the depth and closing systems. Field trial research has shown these two planter settings are key to consistent seedling emergence and in achieving yield potential. The video Checking the depth settings shows how.

After verifying your depth settings are correct, make sure the closing system is adjusted to close the seed trench from the bottom of the trench to the top. Closing the bottom of the trench ensures good seed-to-soil contact with moist soil in the trench. The video Checking closing wheel alignment will help you determine if the closing system is properly set.

Iowa State University - wheel mark in soil

“It is important to properly prepare and maintain the planter to set the stage for the seed to get planted at the proper depth and then to make sure the seed trench is properly closed to ensure the plants emerge at the same time,” Houser says.

For more information and resources on equipment and technology, visit Digital Ag Extension.

Iowa State University - Active gauge down force control graphic

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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