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?
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.
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.