Tuning up your planter now will pay off down the road

By: Agriculture.com Staff 03/28/2008 @ 1:31pm

Farmers who spend a little quality time with their planters before getting into the field this spring might be wearing bigger smiles after harvest this fall.

That's the advice from University of Nebraska Extension machinery systems engineer John Smith, according to a university report. Smith says tuning up planters has the potential to improve yields of most crops, particularly corn, particularly when it comes to the planter's ability to provide a consistent spacing between seeds.

Modern planter designs are capable of very accurate seed spacing -- as long as they are in good condition and operated properly. Seed spacing accuracy can be affected by many things; among them are field speed and shape of the seed furrow.

Based on his having tested more than 300 planters and almost 3,500 individual planter rows over the last four years, Smith says three primary planter problems lead to seed spacing inaccuracy:

  • The seed metering mechanismFixing the seed metering mechanism is a matter of disassembling, inspecting and replacing worn or questionable parts. The mechanism should be tested on a good-quality planter test stand with the seed that will be planted.
  • The seed drop tubeThe drop tube must be very smooth if the seed is to travel in a consistent manner from the metering mechanism to the seed furrow. Any roughness in the tube will provide an inconsistent time and path, resulting in inaccurate seed spacing. The tube can be checked by feeling the inside front surface of the bottom of the seed tube with the little finger.

    If it feels like worn-out sandpaper and is not as smooth as the outside surface of the seed tube, the planter cannot space seed accurately. The tube's smoothness can be tested on a planter stand, or with the finger test, and replaced if it is rough.

  • The planter drive mechanism's uniformity of rotationTo test the uniformity of the rotation of the planter drive, the planter should be raised on blocks or a secure stand. (To be safe, follow directions provided in the operator's manual). Turn the drive wheel or put a wrench on the hex drive shaft. It must turn easily and without any jerkiness.

    Problems are commonly caused by bad chains, sprockets, bearings, and couplings between fold-up sections of wide planters. Irregular rotation also can be caused by insecticide and fertilizer applicator mechanisms.

Farmers who spend a little quality time with their planters before getting into the field this spring might be wearing bigger smiles after harvest this fall.