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When the wind is howling and snow is flying, equipment maintenance can be accomplished—hopefully in the warmth of a shed. Probably 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, seed too close, or skips within the row can easily be tracked to planting equipment that was not properly adjusted or contained worn, broken, or missing parts.
The cost of placing a crop 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 or poor stands that result in replanting 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
Equipment that has been in the field should be washed to remove soil, excess grease, mouse nests, and other residue. A clean machine is more “comforting65533;? to work around and allows parts to be easily examined for operating condition. New equipment may be clean, but should still be examined for rodent and bird nests. Though parts should not be broken on a new unit, the possibility exists that parts can be missing, loose, or out of adjustment and/or alignment.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual before performing any maintenance. It will be needed throughout the equipment’s evaluation as it provides the necessary information to properly adjust and repair a particular piece of equipment.
Generally, the planter should be attached to the tractor that will be pulling the planter through the field. 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. Hoses that are in poor condition should be replaced and any leaks around connections should be repaired.
The next items that should be examined are the steel components (Figure 2). A flashlight might be handy to help look into dark spaces during this procedure. 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 (Figure 3). Any steel that appears to be worn or broken should be replaced or repaired.
The actual 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 (Figure 4). Malfunctioning parts should be adjusted or replaced. If there were steel problems as outlined above, they should be addressed before actual operation and adjustments to the planting mechanisms as worn steel could influence the adjustment of the planting mechanism.
Electrical systems and monitors should be examined. Wires should be observed for any breaks that could cause a shorting out of the equipment. Finding a broken wire deep in the equipment, during the planting season, could be extremely frustrating and time consuming.
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 (Figure 3).
Always refer to the manufacturer’s manual before performing any maintenance.