Just a couple of weeks ago I visited a farmer and his corn planter was still buried behind a combine and other farm equipment. He is a good farmer, but he didn't seem to be in any hurry to get the corn planter out and get it ready.
Bill Lehmkuhl would have an issue with that attitude. The Minster, Ohio, farmer and consultant who gives talks all over the Midwest, including in Indiana, would have preferred farmers had corn planters ready weeks ago, even if you aren't ready to plant. There's no outguessing the weather, and the goal is to be ready when conditions are ready.
Lehmkuhl conducts planter clinics aimed at helping farmers get the best performance from their corn planters. That includes getting even spacing and uniform seed depth placement. Uniform seed depth placement across each row allows for even emergence and prevents late-emergers from becoming weeds. Instead they contribute to final corn yield.
One of his basic recommendations is to make sure the corn planter toolbar is level with the world. You can set it in the barn lot, but you also need to check it in the farm field, he says. If the planter's toolbar isn't level, it can affect seed depth and placement because of the angle at which the planter units run.
His persistence on how important it is to have corn planters level is one driving force behind the test planned for the 2015 Indiana Prairie Farmer/Purdue University Extension replicated trial at the Throckmorton Research center this year.
When conditions allow, the plot will be planted with three variables:
1. Planter set level with the new hitch, replaced this year.
2. New planter purposely set not to run level.
3. Same planter, but run with the worn hitch that was replaced, but saved.
Pete Illingworth, mechanic and planter operator at the Purdue Throckmorton Farm, will take care of the corn planter's settings. Seed Consultants is providing seed for the field-scale trial. Two corn hybrids will be tested. The field will also be evaluated next fall to see if there is a difference in how each corn hybrid reacts on different soil types in the test.
You can wait for the results of the planter levelness test or you can increase your odds of better stands and make sure your corn planter runs level now. Hopefully if you're not running yet, you will be soon.
Don't overlook spring planter preparation – if you skip it, you could be subject to the bottom-line implications of not minding the details. For helpful tips, download our free report: Planter Preparation Tips: Best Practices for Minimizing Breakdowns this Spring