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When the fields are fallow, wind is howling, and temperatures are low, equipment maintenance can be accomplished—hopefully in the warmth of a shed. The most important piece of equipment to prepare for spring is the planter. Planter problems are usually quite identifiable when the crop emerges or doesn’t emerge. Doubles, triples, or skips within the row can easily be tracked to planting equipment that was not properly adjusted or contained worn, broken, or missing parts.
Placing seed in the ground can be expensive and the potential profit for the year can be dramatically influenced by the condition of the planting equipment. Planting delays caused by a malfunctioning planter can dramatically impact the operation’s bottom line. Corn yield potential can be reduced by 7 to 15 bu/acre when stands are uneven.1
Start with cleaning equipment free of soil, excess grease, mouse nests, and other residue. New equipment should still be examined as parts may possibly be missing, loose, or out of adjustment and/or alignment. Remember to always refer to the manufacturer’s manual before performing any maintenance.
Figure 1. Planter and tractor hitch should be observed for level height.
Generally, when making adjustments the planter should be attached to the tractor. Other planter alignments and adjustments can depend on how the tractor and planter are aligned; planters should be level in relationship to the tractor (Figure 1). This helps keep the planting units parallel with the ground. Improper leveling may make it difficult to place the seed at the desired depth. Tire pressures on the tractor and the planter should be adjusted according to the manual to properly align the equipment. After the machines are leveled, hydraulic hoses should be examined for cracks, wear points, and leaky connections.
Next steel components should be examined. A flashlight may be needed for this step. The hitch, toolbar, frame, and other supporting structures should be examined for cracks or excessive wear. Sprockets, chains, shafts, bearings, and other moving parts should be observed for wear and proper operation. Any steel that appears to be worn or broken should be replaced or repaired.
Planting units and supporting machinery should be evaluated. Air hoses, gaskets, connections, finger pick-ups, plates, disks, down pressure springs, and other machinery within and as part of the planting units should be examined. Malfunctioning parts should be adjusted or replaced.
If any steel is repaired on equipment, adjust and align after the repairs are made as worn steel could influence the adjustment of the planting mechanism.
Examine electrical systems and monitors. Wires should be observed for any breaks that could cause a shorting out of the equipment.
After all repairs are made, the planter should be lubricated accordingly. Weather permitting, a trip to a nearby field for a test run and final adjustments is recommended.
Last but not least, all safety equipment should be checked for proper operation. Tail, brake, and flashing lights should be operating. The Slow Moving Vehicle sign should be clean and properly placed.
1 Nielsen, R. 2000. Planter maintenance, there’s still time. Corny News Network. Purdue University. http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ 130809060643 Web sources verified 02/08/2016.