Don’t Forget About Planter Maintenance

The planter is probably the most important piece of equipment to prepare for spring. Issues associated with stand uniformity are often tracked to planting equipment that was not properly adjusted or maintained.

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Properly maintaining your planter improves the likelihood of attaining uniform stands, which are critical for optimal yield potential. Variability among plant spacing is often referred to as doubles or triples (combinations of crowded plants), and skips (omissions). Gaps and crowded plants are often the result of poor seed delivery due to poorly maintained planters. Corn yield potential has been reduced by 7 to 15 bu/acre when stands are uneven.1 Listed below are a few guidelines for planter maintenance and operation this spring:

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Figure 1

Figure 1. Planter and tractor hitch should be observed for level height.

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  • The planter should be cleaned inside and out. Broken and worn parts may be more visible after washing.
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  • The planter should be leveled in relationship to the tractor that will be pulling it. For proper leveling, ensure the tire pressure of the tractor and planter are adjusted to manufacture specifications.
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  • The planter framework should be checked for broken welds or bent steel. Markers should also be checked to make sure they are straight and in good working order.
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  • Hydraulic hoses should be examined for cracks, wear points, and leaky connections.
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  • Chains should be checked for tightness and wear. Loose chains may cause uneven spacing within the row.
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  • The condition of belts and gear teeth should be checked.
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  • Coulters and disc openers should be checked for proper alignment.
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  • Seed drop tubes should be cleaned to remove seed treatment residue and cleared of any obstructions. Seed tube sensors should be cleaned.
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  • Seed tubes should be replaced if excessively worn at the bottom.
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  • Worn seals around seed drums should be replaced. Make sure the drum fits properly against the housing to maintain uniform air pressure and seed metering. The brush should be inspected and replaced if necessary.
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  • Closing wheels should be centered on the furrow. Wheels should be checked for the ability to turn freely and the down pressure on the soil should be checked to be sure it is appropriate for the soil type and/or conditions.
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  • For planters with finger pickups, backplates should be checked for wear and cleaned of rust and seed treatment residue. A feeler gauge should be used to check tension on the fingers; adjustments should be made if necessary.
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  • With air planters, air pressure should be matched to the weight of seed being planted. The air pump should be inspected for proper calibration and air flow. Damaged hoses can reduce air pressure and should be replaced.
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  • The manual should be referenced to determine when to calibrate the seed meter unit.
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A planter plate or disk for a plateless planter should be selected that will give a seed drop with a minimum of doubles or skips and be as uniform in spacing as possible. Planter vacuum or air pressure may need adjustment to get the desired seed drop according to seed size. Seed drive gears should be adjusted for the desired population and seed spacing. Planter attachments for fertilizer or insecticides should also be inspected for worn parts and calibrated for proper delivery of amount and placement.

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Operate the planter in an area that resembles field planting conditions. Dig up seeds and check for accuracy according to desired spacing between seeds. Review and adjust pressure or gear settings if doubles are occurring.

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For additional information on planter maintenance visit the following resources: http://www.pmprecisionplantingservices.com/support-guide/planter-maintenance/ and www.aganytime.com/dekalb/tools/Pages/default.aspx.