The Importance of Planter Maintenance

Protect Your Equipment and Your Yield Potential

The planter is a key piece of equipment to help maximize yield potential*. Be sure to inspect machinery for potential problems before heading into the field.

No matter what brand of planter you are operating, or the type of seed metering device it incorporates, the manufacturer suggests that you check the unit for proper and accurate function prior to arrival of the actual planting season. If problems exist, they can be identified and appropriate maintenance and repairs can be made without the stress of an in-season remedy. The cost of planter maintenance is usually comparatively low, with a payback in peace of mind and potentially higher yields.

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*Nielsen, R. 2000. Planter maintenance: There's still time! Purdue University. Online: www.agry.purdue/edu

Tuning Up and Adjusting Your Equipment

Basic Maintenance 
Basic Maintenance
  • Wash equipment to remove dust, mud, soil or debris to help expose any worn or broken welds.
  • Sprockets, bushings, bearings, belts, chains, planting units, brushes, springs, wear plates, furrow openers, hydraulics, electronics and welds should all be examined.
  • Worn parts and lost bolts should be replaced, broken welds repaired and adjustments made for proper operation.
Graphite and Talc Use 
Graphite and Talc Use
  • Graphite or talc use may allow seed to be more consistently released from seed disks and other planting mechanisms.
  • Equipment operation manuals should be referred to for recommendations.
Equipment Calibration 
Equipment Calibration
  • If possible, operate the planter across near-field conditions to observe for planting accuracy.
  • When actual field planting has begun and after reaching desired planting speed for a determined distance, the planter should be stopped to observe for seed drop, spacing, and depth.
Grain Drill Considerations 
Grain Drill Considerations
  • Unless depth control wheels or bands are on the drill, a uniform planting depth of 3/4 to 1 1/4 inches can be difficult to achieve.
  • Seeding depth can be too shallow when planting into firm soil and too deep in loose soil.
  • Caution should be exercised if drills are equipped with fluted metering devices as large soybean seed can be cracked and seed may not be spaced uniformly in the row.
  • Vacuum or seed-singulating devices have the ability to plant more uniformly.
  • Suggestions for grain drill management practices, adjustments, and settings include:
    • Utilize a leveling tool between the tractor and drill to help promote uniform planting depth.
    • Double-disk openers should utilize depth bands or depth gauge wheels.
    • Press wheel down-pressure should be adjusted to help maintain good seed-to-soil contact.
    • Planting speed should be monitored as higher speeds can increase planting depth.
    • Seed metering devices should be adjusted to plant desired seeds per foot of row.
    • Smaller seed is normally planted more uniformly with fluted metering devices.
Vacuum Metering Unit Considerations 
Vacuum Metering Unit Considerations
  • Most seed sizes can be planted with pneumatic metering type planters when the appropriate disk size and air pressure settings are utilized.
  • Manufacturer manuals should be referred to for seed size air pressure settings.
  • The air system should be checked for any air or vacuum leaks that can compromise planting rates.
  • Seed should be placed into seed disk cells and fit observed to select the proper seed disk for planting.
  • A larger disk should be selected if one seed cannot fit properly into a cell and a smaller disk selected if two seeds can fit in a cell.
  • Use a smaller hole disk if sizing determines that two disks are nearly equal.
    • It should be easier to increase the vacuum to compensate for skips rather than decrease the vacuum to guard against doubles on the smaller hole disk.
  • If a seed disk with fewer cells is selected to plant larger seed, the top planting speed may have to be reduced to avoid exceeding the capabilities of the seed meter being used.
    • A disk with fewer cells must rotate at more RPM to maintain a given population relative to a disk with more cells.
  • Daily planter maintenance should include disk and brush cleaning. Inspection for damage should also be completed regularly.
Feed Cup or Radial Meter Type Planters 
Feed Cup or Radial Meter Type Planters
  • Planters equipped with feed cup mechanisms require attention to sprocket and speed settings.
    • The manufacturer's manual should be referenced for initial sprocket settings for soybean seed size.
  • Seeds coated with seed treatment could change how the seed is metered through the cups.
    • Therefore, field checks are necessary to determine actual planting rate.
  • Planting speed should be adjusted accordingly to maintain feed cup RPM if the sprocket size is changed.
    • A slower moving feed cup can pick up additional seed as it revolves, which would not reduce the planting rate.
    • Planting speed should not be greater than the defined maximum speed for the sprocket in the manufacturer manual.

Equipment Adjustments To Plant Smaller Soybean Seed

  Seeds per Pound
Planter Type 3500 3700 4000 4100 4500 5000
John Deere® Vacuum Use 64 cell cotton disc and vacuum levels of + 5-7 inches. Sprocket setting should be reviewed and planting speed may need to be reduced
Case IH, New Holland ASM Vacuum Use regular soybean disc Use small soybean disc
Kinze® Brush-Type Seed Meter Use black 60 cell soybean disc
John Deere® Radial Bean Meter Use "B" setting Use "A" setting
John Deere® Feed Cup Use soybean cup and standard soybean guide Use soybean cup and #48005 seed guide
John Deere® 750 Grain Drill Set Seed Index Notches to manual specifications for the rate in pounds/acre

Equipment Adjustments To Plant Larger Soybean Seed

  Large Seeded Soybean Recommendations
John Deere® Vacuum Use disk #A42586 (108 cell) for 1,700 to 3,500 seeds/lb and vacuum level of 8 inches*
Case IH, New Holland ASM Vacuum Seed disk B7698875 (10045-SB) or 377669A1 (8045-SB) and vacuum setting of 15-17 inches, baffle setting of 2, and singulator dial setting of 8 for 2,000 to 3,5000 seeds/lb*
Kinze® Brush-Type Seed Meter Use Dark Blue 48 cell soybean disc for 1,400 to 2,200 seeds/lb*
John Deere® Radial Bean Meter Black 60 cell for 2,200 to 4,000 seeds/lb; Dark Blue 120 cell for high rate seeding of 2,200 to 4,000 seeds/lb2
John Deere® Feed Cup Use soybean cup and standard soybean guide
John Deere® 750 Grain Drill Set Seed Index Notches to manual specifications for the rate in pounds/acre

Pedersen, P. 2007. Soybean planting guide. Iowa State University Extension. Online:

Caring for Your Combine

Your combine — especially the cutter bar — can have a big impact on your yields and your overall operating costs. 85–90% of machine losses tend to be at the head; approximately 80% of those occur at the cutter bar. Make sure your combine and cylinders are well-maintained, adjusted to the right settings and ready before harvest arrives. Click the (+) buttons below to see tips for inspecting and preparing your machinery.

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