It's no secret that I like to get on a tractor this time of year once in a while, even though I don't own or operate a crop farm. It's not that difficult to find someone who needs help in the spring driving a tractor, especially if you have some past experience.
For the past several years I've planted soybeans with a Kinze 8-row, split-row planter, primarily no-till into stalks, with a coulter running ahead of the disc openers. The planter last year probably turned somewhere over 3,500 acres without an overhaul of blades and wear points. The seeding mechanism is inspected and adjusted annually, but we're talking wear points where the metal hits the soil.
The person who owns the planter and whom I plant for thought about fixing it a year ago, but decided we could get one more season out of it. And indeed, I didn't notice that much difference last year. Some of the ground had to be worked in 2011 because the season was late and the weeds needed to be knocked down, but even on no-till, penetration didn't seem to be a problem.
So I thought maybe he could get by another year. He decided different, and did the overhaul work himself. That's why he's the farmer and I write about it. Having run the planter now in both no-till, tilled, and stale-seedbed conditions following a vertical tillage pass last fall, I've found that the planter does an excellent job, and a much improved job, of forming a trench with loose soil around it, placing seed where it belongs, in a uniform position each time, and then closing it up with soil.
Perhaps it's like watching paint dry. Or moving a piece of furniture that sat in front of a window and noticing only once the furniture is moved that the sun coming thought the window all those years faded the carpet that wasn't protected by the furniture. Last year's results seemed acceptable, but this year's performance is much better.
Wear obviously wasn't uniform, but the new blades are uniform. That's why I'm seeing the consistency from row to row and from one set of conditions to another. So although overhauling a planter may not seem glamorous, the improved results that lead to better establishment, not just emergence, can pay for themselves rather quickly.