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Machinery Insider Tip: Seed Meter Maintenance

Head to the shop and ready your planter for the performance of its lifetime, doling out seed at nearly 100% accuracy with pinpoint depth. The following are key seed meter maintenance pointers from Successful Farming’s Planter Doctor, Kevin Kimberley.

Kimberley advises that all working parts and key components of a planter needs to be scrutinized prior to planting. He starts his inspection tour with adjustment pointers regarding the heart of any planter, its row units.

Finger pickup meters: If you own a planter with finger pickup row units, start your examination of such meters by completely disassembling each unit and blowing out all debris, seed, and graphite with compressed air. “Pay particular attention to graphite buildup around the cams of the pickup mechanism's hub,” Kimberley advises. “Scrub off any seed treatment from working parts with a surface-cleaning solvent on both sides of the meter. And buff out any surface rust.”

Owner manuals also provide tips for inspecting parts for wear and required adjustments. “I like to replace certain parts like brushes, belts, and their idlers each year,” Kimberley says. “Look for a warped baffle or elevator housing. Reapply slip plate as instructed in the owner's manual, but do so lightly. Overapplication does more harm than good.” Have meters calibrated by a planter technician to assure they're operating dead-on accurate.

Pneumatic meters: If your planter operates with pneumatic discs then disassemble the entire meter and blow it clean. “Seed treatment buildup is particularly a problem with pneumatic meters, as it adheres to plastic parts like glue,” Kimberley says. Components that require particular attention for wear include seals (“They are crucial to maintain accurate vacuum”); meter disks (“They can wear far more than farmers realize”); brushes (“I usually replace them every year, and if still in good condition, then clean thoroughly by brushing out the strands”); and lids and housing (“They can warp from heat with time”). Kimberley highly recommends marking the meter and each of its major components (disks, lids, etc.) with a number to correspond with the row unit it was removed from. “That way you can pinpoint a faulty meter after planting. Also, parts like disks are married to a meter as they wear during use. Switching disks is never a good idea. I also mark the position of the disk relative to its retainer cam with a stripe so the disk is reinstalled in that same position each time.” Have each meter calibrated.

After calibrating a planter, take the extra time to fine-tune the seed meter to the seed size and shape you are planting. Large- and small-size seed corn used to come in two basic shapes: flats and rounds. Now add wedges, canoes, and torpedoes. “Shapes have been modified with the genetic advances made to seed in the past decade,” Kimberley says. “These new shapes can challenge a meter's accuracy.” In Kimberley's new classification, “wedges” describes pyramidal-shape seeds that are most often flat. “Canoes” are seeds with an elongated indentation running the length of the seed. “Torpedoes” are slim, long seeds. “Each seed behaves differently in a meter,” Kimberley says. “For example, torpedoes have a tendency to jam in the holes of pneumatic disks and require adjustment changes so they'll consistently release.”

To avoid spacing problems, send a healthy sample (in a ½-gallon plastic bag) of each hybrid you will plant this spring with your meters when they are calibrated this winter. “The person calibrating the meter can run the seed and then give you suggestions for making field adjustments this spring,” Kimberley adds.

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