You might call Barry Fisher the planter doctor. With the precision of an astute diagnostician, Fisher can eye up a planter from front to back, all the while seeing in his mind how wear or adjustments will affect the job that planter does.
One reason it works is that Fisher, state agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has a picture in his mind of how the row should look after the seed is planted, especially in no-till fields. He's looking for seed spaced evenly with each seed at the same depth. He's also looking to see if fertilizer is at the correct depth, and if this process can be accomplished with minimal sidewall compaction. How the planter is set before you leave the barnlot determines if that's possible, he believes.
Recently, Fisher evaluated a Kinze planer set up for no-till during a field day at Roger Wenning's farm near Greensburg. Walk with Fisher through the planter.
"First I look at the fertilizer coulters. Coulters with notched blades tend to pick up moist soil and throw it out, especially if the angel isn't set right. Gauge wheels can pick it up. You don't want wet soil sticking to gauge wheels."
"Next, I look at row cleaners. Some of newer ones use tredder wheels. Those are OK and help prevent wrapping, but don't let them be depth controls.
"Third, I'm looking at the disc openers themselves. Are they worn? If they're worn more than an inch or so in diameter, you'll get more of a 'w'-shaped trench. You want a 'v'- shaped trench instead.
"Fourth, I'm looking at gauge wheels. The inside reduced diameter wheels that only press soil on the outside can help cut sidewall compaction.
"Fifth, check for wear of Keeton seed firmers. And make sure seed tubes are dropping seed properly.. They must be clear of obstructions,
"Finally, I look at closing wheels. You can use different set-ups. Some still prefer cast-iron wheels. If you're using spading wheels, just make sure the points aren't so sharp that the wheels go deeper than they should."