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Adjust for no-till

03/16/2011 @ 9:32am

When it's planting time, you need your planter in tip-top condition to get the best yield possible. One of the toughest conditions to plant in is no-till. With tougher corn stalks and years of residue to cut through, getting the seed into the ground can be a challenge.

Rodney Arthur of Dawn Equipment says producers should make decisions about their planter configuration based on geographic location, soil type, crop rotation, and tillage method. Size of the operation is another factor.

“There are a wide variety of planter attachments. It is important to select a tool versatile enough to handle the full spectrum of your field conditions.” Arthur says.

Return on investment is key. “A good tool should pay for itself quickly. If there is a return on the tool in a short time, and the farmer is happy with the performance, we've done our job,” says Arthur.

When producers decide to change tillage practices to no-till, their planters may not be set up properly to handle the residue. Duane Weaver of Dongola, Illinois, has a small operation, and plants mainly soybeans with some corn. Weaver started no-tilling in the mid-1990s, but he let it fall by the wayside because he wasn't satisfied with his stand. Then, after purchasing a new, heavier planter in 2005, he returned to no-till on 85% of his operation.

Weaver found that the things he could overlook in conventional tillage were magnified in his no-till system. For instance, some wear on a double disc opener in conventional till is OK, but you cannot afford it in no-till.

“Each aspect of your planter becomes more important as you make the conversion to no-till,” he says. “It seems like you have a lot of residue that takes a year or two to break down. That residue is one big reason to make sure your planter is functioning properly.”

One of the keys, says Weaver, is the need for a good seed trench. “It becomes critical to have your double disc openers in shape with very little or no wear on them,” he says.

5 Ideas For Planter Setup

Examine all areas of your planter, of course. But the following five ideas can make the most difference in no-till.

1. Row Cleaners. There are two types of row cleaners to consider using — rigid-mount or floating. Paul Jasa, University of Nebraska Extension engineer, likes the floating residue managers out front because they don't gouge the soil. “They're not kicking out 100% of the residue. They're leaving some behind to help protect the row,” he explains. Enough residue is moved, however, to create a more uniform residue distribution.

Selecting a row cleaner is very area dependant. You don't want to do too much or too little. Arthur says, “For a farmer in north central Iowa with 750 acres of corn and soybeans, maybe choose a simple rigid row cleaner. For a farmer no-tilling 1,000 acres of corn into beans in western Nebraska, perhaps a floating row cleaner.”

For larger operations, Arthur says a remotely adjustable, hydraulic row cleaner may be a better solution. “Farmers don't have to adjust row cleaners manually anymore. They can automatically adjust them from the cab,” he says.

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