As we get the mundane grind of winter behind us and change our clocks over to Daylight Savings Time, I hope you are catching the bug to get outside. I hope that you are moving equipment around and getting the things ready. And of course, one of the key things to be focusing on right now is planter preparation.
I realize that many of you utilize somebody to do a planter checkup every year, whether it is right after you are done planting, or during the winter. I don’t want to rehash the things that they do for you, but I do want to suggest a few additional things that you will want to check.
Your Seed Corn is an important first step. I know what you are thinking, he is talking about planters, and now he talking about seed, but hear me out. If your seed is in the shed or still coming, do a little investigative work. Find out what you are getting, size and shape wise, because every planter has seed that it is good at planting, and seed it is not so good at planting. If you are getting seed you know the planter won’t handle well, then let’s take action. Get the appropriate size plates if they are available, like on a white. If not, consider if a setup like eSet or vSet might be appropriate because they will plant almost any seed size.
If you let the planter set all year with the seed disks in the meters, take them out and check them. A laser level or a simple level on the face of them to check for any warping is important. If that meter waves as it turns, we will have spacing issues and skips. Something we will find if we test meters, but also something you can test yourself.
But the one that I most want you to check out is your parallel arms. I want you to go put the planter down and pull it through the field 30 feet with the downforce system turned off (once the ground is not frozen for my Northern friends). Then I want you to get out and start looking at those parallel arms. Every couple of rows, I want you to look at how parallel both the top and bottom are to the ground. And I want you to take some pictures. No matter how good your downforce system is, or what speed you plant, if that row unit isn’t hitting the ground properly, you will never get the consistency of residue management and seeding depth that you are looking for. If the outside of your planter is not parallel, but the inside looks good, I want you to move the lift wheels up or down as needed. If you have to move your 3-point up or down to get the arms level, then I want you to make a simple flag and clamp it on to your top arm on one side so you can see from the cab if it is level or not.
I could go on, but the take home for today is this, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Every variable and everything we can eliminate before we go to the field matters. Sure, chains and bearings are easy to find, and they tell you when they are failing. But things like parallel arms and seed disks are easy to find as well but are much harder to find when they fail. Let’s do as much as we can to eliminate the possibility of failure.