A farmer is only as good as his equipment – and this spring, one of your principal pieces of equipment will no doubt be your trusty planter. Equipment maintenance is one of those “everybody knows” pieces of information, but planters require a fair amount of attention to prevent damage and poor operation thus resulting in poor yields at harvest. Here is a general checklist for maintaining and inspecting your planter, to keep it working smoothly for years to come – remember to check your owner’s manual for the specifics of your model.
- Check all parts and replace any that are worn or damaged
- Replace all rubber seals that have become worn
- Check the alignment of disc openers and coulters – and if disc openers are worn out, replace them
- Repair or replace planter chains or rusty chain links – lubricate the chains that you don’t replace
- Inflate tires to the proper pressure – under or overinflated tires can throw off your seed drop pattern
- Clean your monitoring sensors and clear out the seed tubes
- Check the end of seed tubes to ensure the tube hasn’t become deformed – that can throw off your seed drop
- Look for rust buildup or treatment residue on the finger-pickup back plates
- Inspect backplates for worn spots – resembling dimples – that can cause double seed drops
- Adjust finger tension to manufacturer’s recommended values
- Visually inspect the seed conveyor belt and the belt drive sprocket teeth for wear and to make sure these important components haven’t become brittle
When it comes time to start planting, I also suggest making a test pass, then going back to review the results before you continue to plant the rest of the field. Measure to test the depth and spacing of each seed while looking for doubles and/or misses. Your tests should sample 25 foot strips, for each row, on flat land, planted at a typical planting speed, and you should do this in random 100 foot intervals. Take at least 3 samples from your test pass and write down the results. If you find a consistent problem, (i.e. row 3 has more doubles) go back to the check list and try to find the problem. Remember, in times like these we need to make every dollar count on our inputs. (garbage in = garbage out) Happy planting!