11 planter prep tips

  • 01

    Are you ready to plant corn? Is your planter? Here are some tips to get ready! "Make a close inspection of the soil engaging components on the row units. Badly worn parts must be replaced or planter efficiency will be impaired," says Phil Jennings, a service manager with Kinze Manufacturing, Inc., a Williamsburg, Iowa-based planter manufacturer.

  • 02

    Check disc opener blades

    If your 15-inch disc blades are worn down by half an inch, they're due for replacement, Jennings says. Check the wear on the blades as well as the disc blade contact. "Optimal disc blade contact is 1 to 1.5 inches to form the seed trench," he says.

  • 03

    Inspect inner scraper

    Make sure the seed tube is fully protected and prevent soil from building up between opener blades by inspecting the inner scraper. "Replace scrapers when they are worn to 5/8 inch or less," Jennings says.

  • 04

    Check out the gauge wheels

    Check for "light contact of the tire to blade in the operating position," Jennings advises, adding it's also a good idea to check the arm and bushings and be ready to adjust depth as conditions in the field change.

  • 05

    Keep your depth set

    Officials at Iowa State University (ISU) say it's best to plant corn there at a depth of about 2 inches under normal conditions. To ensure you're hitting the right depth mark, make sure each planter unit is weighted properly, according to a report from ISU ag engineer Mark Hanna and agronomist Roger Elmore.

  • 06

    Closing wheel check

    First, make sure they're centered over the seed trench. And, if you're planting into heavy residue, Jennings recommends considering a closing wheel shield to prevent stalks from lodging in the closing wheel arms.

  • 07

    Pressure down

    While you're at it, make sure they're applying "only enough down pressure to maintain good seed-to-soil contact," Jennings says. If your soil's dry, up the pressure. The wetter, the lighter. "In wet soil conditions, consider using a drag chain or tine to close the seed furrow instead of resorting to high spring down pressure that can compact soil," Hanna says.

  • 08

    Hike up the hitch

    Make sure your hitch height complements the adjustments you make to your closing wheels, as it can have a lot to do with seed-to-soil contact. Keep the tongue parallel to the ground when you're rolling in the field, Jennings advises.

  • 09

    Other pieces

    Are you running a no-till planter? If so, make sure you're setting your coulters slightly above the disc opener blades. This will help with smoother row unit operation. If the residue wheels are building up with wet soil, they're running too deep, Jennings says.

  • 10

    Depth gauge wheel pressure

    "Depth-gauge wheels on either side of the double-disc seed opener need to have enough contact pressure in order to be firmly on the soil surface (to gauge seed depth), but not so much contact pressure that the depth wheels overly compact soil adjacent to the seed zone," Hanna says. Like with closing wheels, the wetter the soil, the lighter the contact pressure.

  • 11

    Check it out

    When you start planting, don't just dig up a few seeds here and there to see if things are going okay. "Take the time to prove it to yourself that the job is getting done right,” Jennings says. “The extra 15 minutes is an inexpensive insurance policy. Dirt is the real test.”

Is your planter ready for spring? Check out these tips before you roll.

Read more about