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Uneven stand establishment can reduce corn yield potential by 5 to 15 bushels per acre.1 Taking the time to perform planter maintenance before the planting season begins can help decrease both emergence and within-row plant spacing variability and help to maximize yield potential.
The benefits of following the manufacturer’s recommendation for pre-season maintenance and calibration include the following:1
When considering the speed at which planter seed metering units need to dispense seed, it is pretty amazing. A planter moving at 5 miles per hour (7.3 feet per second), dropping a planting population of 38,000 seeds per acre in 30-inch rows (1 seed about every 5.4 inches), needs to deliver about 16 to 17 seeds per second. It is easy to see why all the mechanisms need to be finely tuned and working well.
Properly maintaining your planter is critical to optimizing yield potential. Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual before performing any maintenance. Some general planter maintenance concepts and their potential effects on the crop are discussed below.
Drives that are not properly maintained can cause uneven plant spacing. Common items that may be included in your operator’s manual as part of planter drive maintenance may include:2
Row Unit maintenance can affect the uniformity of plant stands and emergence. Common items that may be included in your operator’s manual as part of row unit maintenance may include:2
Figure 1. Double disc openers with appropriate amount of contact.
Figure 2. Sprockets, chains, shafts, and hoses, should be checked for proper operation, wear, and breakage.
Meters that are properly maintained can help contribute to uniform seed spacing. Common items that may be included in your operator’s manual as part of meter maintenance may include:2
Figure 3. Planter and tractor hitch should be observed for level height.
Seed Size and Treatments can affect planter settings. Refer to the owner’s manual for recommendations on the use of lubricants such as talc and graphite, and adjustments to vacuum settings. Match the seed size with the disc and vacuum pressure recommended.
Below are some general manufacturer’s tips for checking a planter:
1 Nielsen, R. 2000. Planter maintenance, there’s still time. Purdue University. www.agry.purdue.edu. 2 Nielsen, R. 2001. Stand establishment variability in corn. Purdue University. AGRY-91 -01. www.agry.purdue.edu. 3 Hoeft, R. and Nafziger, E. 2002. Illinois Agronomy Handbook, 23rd Edition. University of Illinois Extension. Web sources verified 11/30/15. 130809060643