There was a day when planting came to a halt if a planter marker broke. Even if it tripped the wrong way, it meant climbing off the tractor and flipping a chain so it would fall the right way. If the planter wasn't making a mark, you couldn't plant.
Visiting a farmer in the field planting the other day, he noted that one marker had just broken on him a few rounds earlier. It was no longer functional.
"I really haven't used them much for three years anyway," he said. "They lay in the cradle and bounce around, and after a while, there's enough wear that they can break. That's what happened today. "
He noted that there were times when he still used them, like on end rows instead of setting an A-B line. So that day he made sure he started next to the fence and headed so that the operating marker could leave a mark for the next pass across the ends.
Don't expect him to rush and fix the broken marker anytime soon – certainly not until there is a long pause in planting. Since planting is almost done, it may not be before next season.
Some are ordering planters without markers. Others are going ahead and ordering them even though they intend to plant with auto-steer and GPS. Some say it's for extra weight on the ends of the planter, especially if they have central fill planters. Others say it's for resale value. A few say it's just in case they lose signal on GPS and need to revert to markers.
That brings up an interesting point. Granddad stopped planting if the marker didn't work. Some today stop planting if they lose GPS signal. Most report that's happening less often, especially if they have a reliable RTK signal.
Times have changed – don't be surprised to find planter markers in an antique museum, such as Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair, sooner than you might think.