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Pitch of planter can affect planting depthPitch of planter can affect planting depth

Position of planter on drawbar can affect how deep seed is planted.

Tom Bechman 1

May 29, 2015

2 Min Read

Before you put your planter away, get out a level. Take your planter to a bare spot and drop it down so it can engage as if it is planting. Then take your level and put it on the frame of a planter unit. Is the bubble in the center? Or is it off to one side?

Related: Why you might need a new planter hitch

Maybe you aren't used to carrying a level to the field, but you might want to consider putting one in your toolbox for next season. You may think your units are running parallel to the soil surface, but the bubble in the level may tell you a different story.


What does it matter? People who give planter clinics always talk about having the planter running level to get the right depth placement and ensure good stands. Here's insight into what they are talking about.

Pete Illingworth planted plots for the Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University Extension test plots recently. One objective of the test was to determine if in fact having the planter level makes a difference in emergence.

He planted in normal position, and then with the planter set to pitch the planter units and not run level. He did it to two extremes. What he discovered was that the main effect was on planting depth. The normal setting resulted in 2-inch depth for corn, which was where he had adjusted the planter to plant. When he pitched the planter by putting the planter frame bar in a different hole on the hitch, the unit actually planted 3.5 inches deep. With another adjustment, it planted about 2.5 inches deep. You could also adjust it to plant too shallow.

The question is: Does it matter or not? Based on three years of testing in the same plot program, planting at 3 or even 4 inches deep vs. 1.5 to 2 inches deep never produced a stand or yield decrease. In fact in 2014 corn was significantly drier when planted 3 inches deep vs. 2 inches deep.

Related: Tire pressure doesn't affect all planters anymore

The only time the planting depth mattered was in one season when the shallow plot, one inch, did not germinate as fast or as well and ran behind all season. It was 20 bushels per acre behind the other plots. So as long as not running level doesn't mean you're planting shallow, this test would raise the question of how much running level or not level matters.

Stay tuned for the results of this test plot later this year.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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