Spring planting is a critical step towards a successful fall crop – and a well-maintained planter is essential for a head start. To ensure efficient planting and to avoid any unforeseen stops during #plant23, it’s crucial to inspect and maintain planters.
Fundamental steps for out-of-field planter preparation
Before planting, check for worn, loose, or broken parts. Place particular emphasis on ground-engaging parts (disks, wheels, seed firmers, etc.), high-wear areas (bearings or bushings), and parts that mount to the planter frame (row units, down pressure systems, hoses, plumbing, etc.). Start with the list below:
Bushings and parallel arms:
Look for excessive movement in the parallel arm linkage and for worn bushings. Worn bushings can increase the chance of row and seed bounce. Make sure to check the row unit for any looseness, as bushings must be tight for optimal performance.
Double-check the planter operator manual to ensure seed opener disks are set to the smallest diameter. Otherwise, they will not place the seed at the appropriate depth. Planter disks should touch in the front. But if they are too worn, they will produce a “W” shaped seed slot, instead of the desired “V” slot. So check for issues with disk openers and replace them if necessary.
Inspect closing wheels to make sure they’re in good condition and not excessively worn. You want to make sure bearings are good and that pivot points and axles are not overly worn. The edges of rubber wheels easily get packed with debris, which makes them susceptible to loosening or spinning incorrectly. This can lead to inconsistent closing and potential interference with the row unit.
Check for wear and tear. Replace row cleaners if they are overly worn or adjust them to compensate for wear in specific areas. If you’re working in higher levels of residue or corn-on-corn fields, well-adjusted row cleaners will only move the residue (not soil) off of the furrow. This can help warm the soil trench and lessen seedling diseases from excess residue.
Dysfunctional metering units generally result in skips, doubles, or triples you will observe after seed emergence. To ensure uncalibrated meters don’t affect crop stands, take metering units apart every winter. Remove anything obstructing the unit (such as dirt), and replace cracked plastic covers and broken fingers in the finger-pickup meter. Calibrate meters every 100 acres to boost yield.
Liquid or other application systems on the planter:
Check application delivery equipment for wear on hoses, firmers, and nozzles. Make sure the machine is properly ballasted for carrying weight on the frame or pulling a unit in the field.
Proper inflation is key to a good ride in the field for the planter and seed placement. Worn tires are more challenging to replace when machines are fully loaded in the field.
Before heading to the fields for planting, consider loading hybrids and varieties, seed treatments, chemicals, and other products into planter monitors if you are mapping fields. Doing so in advance can save you time and improve labeling consistency. Displays and GPS software should be up to date on office computers and all cab monitors & iPads, if applicable. If problems occur, work with a digital ag technician to be sure all precision equipment is ready for spring.
Basic in-field planter performance tests to consider
As you prepare to plant, it’s important to note high-speed machines deliver seed differently than traditional mechanical drive and seed tubes. With a wide range of options available in the market, it’s advisable to refer to the manufacturer’s operating instructions as a starting point for planting speed and settings.
Adjust these settings based on field conditions, which play a critical role in planting success. If the field is too wet, for example, the tires can cause compaction, and the furrow may obstruct the plants from properly rooting. Here are some more tips:
Level the planter:
In the field, set the planter in the ground and pull it forward for a short distance to be sure the row units are fully engaged in the ground. Parallel arms should run parallel to the ground when set properly.
Check for a proper furrow wall:
The furrow wall should have enough pressure on it to maintain a “V” trench without crumbling down before placing the seed in the bottom. Applying too much pressure can restrict the growth of young seedlings as they root.
Proper seed depth:
Ensure that the planter places the seed at the bottom of the seed furrow to improve uniformity in seed emergence.
Adjust downforce as needed for proper seed depth:
Remember that applying more depth on the row unit or more pressure on the closing systems will offset each other. Always make ONE adjustment at a time. Pull forward to note the outcome, then make further adjustments.
Make sure you’re ready for #plant23. Even the most well-oiled machine and seed genetics can’t perform to their potential without a proper planting plan. Get off to the best start to the season, and reach out to an AgriGold agronomist for help.
Consistency matters. Still have questions?
Our team is equipped with the knowledge and information to help you plant performance in your fields. Reach out to your local AgriGold agronomist for any questions you may have throughout the planting and growing seasons.