Planter Maintenance and Calibration
Planter Maintenance and Calibration should be at the top of your priority list this time of year! An irregular stand can easily cost 10-15% of your yield. Use this Top 10 check list to help prepare for the most important thing you do each and every year.
- Check for wear and tear on the Row Cleaners. Adjust or replace if needed.
- Check the diameter of Coulters and replace or adjust as needed.
- Measure diameter on Opening Disks. Replace if they measure less than the minimum diameter as listed in the operator’s manual. If the opening disks are worn too much, you will get a “W” shaped seed trench instead of the desired “V” shape.
- Check Gauge/Depth Wheels for light contact of the tire to blade in the operating position. Different field conditions will require this to be adjusted throughout the planting season.
- Metering Units should be cleaned and inspected every year. Replace any broken or worn parts – including plastic covers, broken fingers, cracked discs, seed brushes, or cracked belts. Lubricate with graphite only. Check vacuum or air meters for leaks and pressure.
- Check Seed Tubes and Seed Firmers for excessive wear. Seed Tubes can curl inward, causing the seed to catch or bounce. Seed Firmers should press the seed down in the furrow and the tension is adjusted with a bolt.
- Closing Wheels should apply enough down pressure for good seed to soil contact. The bottoms of rubber or cast iron closing wheels need to be 1.5-2” apart.
- Check Alignment. Take a rope and pull it straight from the front coulter to the closing wheels. The closing wheels, opening disks and coulters should all be in alignment.
- Check Fertilizer unit. Hang a bucket below the tube of the unit, and do a test run of 175 feet in the field. Weigh the fertilizer in the bucket, multiply by 100. That equals the pounds per acre of fertilizer you applied (at 30” row spacing).
- Inflate tires to the correct pressure and adjust the hitch height so that the planter toolbar runs parallel to the ground when in the planting position.
Now that your planter is field ready, calibrate your seed drop with the various seed sizes you will be planting this spring. Conduct a full field check by tying up the closing wheels and planting at your average planting speed. Check your seed drop, look for doubles or triples and make sure you have uniform placement and depth. Then check depth again with closing wheels in operation. Continue to check depth at each new field. Lubricate chains and bearings at the end of each planting day when they are warm with a multipurpose spray lubricant. Be mindful of your planting speed, you can lose up to 5 bushels per acre for every one-mile per hour over the planter recommendation!
Have a safe and productive planting season!
- Emily Swartz, North Central Division Agronomist