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Early spring best time to test and tune farm machinery for planting season

Early spring is the optimal time to prepare farm equipment and make repairs for a smooth planting season, a Purdue University agricultural machinery specialist said. Robert Stwalley, assistant clinical professor in agricultural and biological engineering, said tuning equipment now can prevent problems later.

“Instead of wishing for sunnier days and warmer weather, the wise farmer uses the gray and cold times to be ready to hit the fields running when the seasons change,” Stwalley said.

There are four main steps in machinery preparation, Stwalley said. These are cleaning, verifying functionality, calibration and testing the monitoring systems. Preparation should start with cleaning machines thoroughly with soap and water to remove dirt, chemical buildup, excess grease and plant material. While cleaning, farmers can also note any parts needing repair.

Next, farmers should carefully disassemble and inspect all material distribution components such as seed delivery mechanisms, fertilizer applicators, herbicide nozzles and insecticide distributors. These parts should be handled with care since some are delicate. Before reassembling, operators should ensure that all parts are functioning correctly on their own.

Each distributing mechanism on planters must be calibrated. To do this, farmers must lower the planters far enough for those mechanisms to engage, then run the machine at operational speed for a set distance. At the end of that distance, the number of seeds dropped should be counted or the dispensed material output weighed. If the distribution numbers are off, the machine needs to be recalibrated and tested again at the same distance.

It is also essential to test the monitoring and data-collecting systems on planters to ensure data collection is accurate. Collecting data is a key component of precision agriculture and often involves electronic sensors. To be sure that planting information is recorded accurately, farmers should test the sensors that monitor the planter. If any of the monitoring systems are dysfunctional, they must be replaced.

For more information on farm machinery preparation and maintenance, contact Stwalley at 765-494-1791 or rms@purdue.edu.

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