Pete Illingworth really goes through a planter when he inspects it. He doesn't just check a few bolts to see if they are tight and shake a few disks and wheels. He pulls things apart and gets down to where the wear happens – where steel meets steel in this case. And if something needs replaced, he replaces it.
That's how important he feels it is to get a good job of planting done each spring. Illingworth gets equipment ready for the Throckmorton Purdue University Ag Center near Romney. He also operates the planter on both research trials and commercial fields at the Ag Center and at the adjoining Meigs Horticulture Farm.
This year he didn't expect to need to replace the disk openers, because he hadn't run a tremendous number of acres since he replaced them before. Still, as he took them off to check parts inside, he pulled out his tape measure and checked each opener. The disk diameter is supposed to be 15 inches. He found that most of them were still measuring around 14 and three-fourths inches across. That means they don't need to be replaced this year.
Different manufacturers vary on when they recommend replacing disk openers. Some might recommend it at 14.5 inches if it is originally a 15-inch disk. Others might say it can go to 14 inches. Illingworth knows he needs to follow the instructions in the operator's manual.
His goal is to maintain the proper shape of the planting trench. If openers wear too much, they no longer make the correct shape of trench. Seed isn't always placed at a uniform depth, or not at the correct depth. Uneven stands can result from working with a planter when the opening disks are worn more than they should be.