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Make Sure Planter 100% Ready to Go

Wet spell gives time to check and check again.

Perhaps you feel like a race car driver on the first day of qualifications at the Indianapolis motor Speedway who is seeing nothing but sheets of rain fall upon the track. His or her qualification set-up was ready, and the game plan was checked and double-checked for the qualification run. But then came the rain. Nothing is much more boring or aggravating than watching it rain when you're rearing to go.

Race car drivers visiting Indiana for the month of May in a few weeks will have nothing over farmers in that regard. Based on modern average planting dates, this spring is shaping up to be on the late side, unless a major dry-out sets in soon and rains stay away. Frustration builds with every day that clicks off the calendar without a planter wheel turning in the field.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International's Agronomy Team wants to make sure you don't get so bored and frustrated that you overlook important adjustments or make necessary repairs on the planter. Once the weatherman drops the green flag, all-out planting will be underway. That's not the time to discover that you forgot to check a chain or take a close look at the seed opener disks to see if maybe it was time to replace them. Once the race is on, every hour will be worth dollars this spring, especially with higher yields hanging on the earliest planting date when conditions are right, and crop prices remaining at very high levels.

In the March 19 edition of Walking Your Fields, Pioneer agronomists offer several tips for making sure your planter is ready to go. If you haven't performed these steps yet, or maybe even if you have but figure it wouldn't hurt to check again, here are some ways you might improve planter performance this year once the season gets underway.

First, check the drive system. With the planter in field position, attach a socket and speed wrench to the hex drive. If you can't turn the planter over freely, check for stiff, maybe even rusty chains, and perhaps frozen bearings. Earlier this spring a reader of Indiana Prairie Farmer saw a picture of a poor corn stand in the magazine that reminded him of his fields last year, and called to chat about what caused the problems in the field pictured. Turns out that although he had ran the units through a planter monitoring stand and spent lots of dollars on upgrades and repairs, he had neglected to check drive chains.

If you have a finger-pickup planting mechanism inside your units, replace brushes. Check seals carefully in vacuum planters, no matter what the brand. Next, double check for wear on seed disks. Make sure the disk still runs straight. Wobbling can cause skips.

If you're using no-till coulters, they should run one-quarter inch shallower than the disk opener. That's not a large margin for error. If you haven't checked with a tape measure, on every row, you really won't know. Eyeballing it won't tell you what you need to know in this case.

Also check seed tubes, gauge wheels and press wheels. The gauge wheel should just slightly contact the seed opener disk as it spins in planting position. That makes for proper scouring and support of the openers. Likewise, if one press wheel is too close to the seed in the row and the other is too far away, seed-to-soil contact may be less than desirable.

These aren't changes that you can necessarily tell just by looking. While you're waiting for soils to dry, if you haven't already performed each of these inspections, today might be the day to do so.

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