By Matt Reese
The sun is out, the skies are blue and the spring breeze is blowing, but the fields are not quite ready. What are some last-minute things to double (and triple) check on the planter before heading out to the field for the first test run?
Some of the most-common panicked springtime farmer phone calls to dealers involve the technology and planter monitor set-up questions. Many monitors can run self-checks on things like the row clutches, sensor readings and seed tubes, but the key is getting a start on this before heading to the fields to kick off the planting season, said Jeff Garrabrant, lead technician for Evolution Ag in Plain City.
“It is still wet and we still have some guys trying to get some corn off in the area. A week or two before you are ready to go plant, the biggest thing is to get the fields and the farms put into the monitor properly and make sure you have the seed meters, the overlaps and all of the calibrations set,” Garrabrant said. “That way you know it is all ready to go and if there is a problem you can get your dealer out there to take a look. If you wait until the day you are ready to go, then the dealer is not going to be available probably for 2 or 3 days.”
Chris Mayer with Mayer Farm Equipment also emphasized the importance of checking the monitors.
“It is easy to do a software update that changes all the settings back to factory. Make sure the monitors are all set correctly,” Mayer said. “Otherwise you could have everything else right, and you just screwed up the most important pass of the year. Just go through and double check settings and make sure the rows are set correctly.”
Mayer also emphasized the importance of the planting depth adjustment.
“They need general maintenance but the last thing we check is the planting depth adjustment because it can be off,” Mayer said. “We see a lot of planters that are not where they need to be with planting depth and then there are problems with consistency.”
Jonathan Francis, sales/IS consultant for Ag-Pro Companies, said the seed meter could always use a once over before heading to the fields.
“It is hard to nail down just one thing, but If I had to narrow it down to one area to check pre-season it would be the seed meter,” Francis said. “On the seed meter vacuum, check the door seals to ensure consistent vacuum, check the seed plate hub height to help singulation and look for seed plate wear for grooves, which can cause poor vacuum and singulation. Also, make sure the double eliminator adjustment adjusts freely and properly to allow faster in-field adjustment.
“Then on the planter, check tire pressure for contact drive wheels as well as air bag pressure on drive wheels to ensure accurate seeding and/or fertilizer rates. Look at the hex shaft carrier bearings and drive chains — stiff chains can cause inconsistent population, singulation and spacing.”
On the row unit, Francis suggests a seed opener pinch point of 2.5 inches to ensure a good seed trench.
“Too loose yields a poor trench, too tight leads to premature wear,” he said. “Checking for gauge wheel arm and bearing wear and adjustment ensures proper depth. Closing wheel bearings and bushings help maintain consistent closing force and row alignment.”
Kellan Bolton with Apple Farm Service said to make sure the battery is not forgotten.
“Make sure everything is up to snuff and make sure all of your battery terminals and connections are clean. Battery voltage is a big deal any more on these planters,” he said. “Get it outside and run it through its paces, just like you would for a tractor. We’re still wet out there so take your time.”
One last look at the seed disk openers is also very important, said Gary Fennig with Fennig Equipment.
“Definitely take a look at your seed disk openers. I’m a fan of changing the seed disk openers every year. You only have one chance to make this pass and it has to be 100% correct every time,” Fennig said. “And I know there are a lot of choices out there for closing wheels. Take a hard look at a closing wheel that will take care of that sidewall compaction and make sure you get good seed to soil contact. If you are doing those two things you are positioned to get good emergence. This year, for as wet as we have been, guys are going to be pushing a little sooner than maybe what they should and that is where these closing wheels really come into play.”