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Spring Planter Preparation
“When you have low commodity prices, you have to do the best job possible to maximize yield potential,” says Phil Jennings, Kinze. “Then regardless of what Mother Nature deals you throughout the season, you know you’ve done things correctly.”
Failing to properly set up your planter can drain yield potential from day one. “The best thing you can do is prepare,” Jennings adds. “Checking over your planter before planting season is a really good insurance policy.”
Follow this 10-point checklist to get ready for 2015 planting.
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1. First and foremost, you should look at your soil-engaging components, specifically no-till coulter blades and disc opener blades. No-till coulters should be set at or slightly above the disc opener blades. When disc opener blades start to wear, use shims to maintain a contact point on the row unit. “This way when you enter the soil profile, you have a nice, clean seed trench,” explains Jennings. When 15-inch blades are worn to 14.5 inches in diameter, they should be replaced to maintain correct seed placement in the trench.
2. As you’re examining soil-engaging components, take a look at the inner seed tube guard or inner scraper. “This protects the seed tube to make sure you have uniform seed placement, and it keeps material from building up on the inside of discs,” says Jennings. When these are new they measure just over 7/8 inch. “If the inner scraper is 1/2 inch wide or smaller, it will no longer protect the shank or seed tube and should be replaced,” adds Jennings.
3. When you reassemble the row unit, you will want to hold the gauge wheels in position and check that they contact the blade lightly where the disc opener blades come together. “There are shims on the arm that allow you to adjust the gauge wheel in to maintain that light contact,” says Jennings. “Light contact prevents any loose dirt from getting in between the gauge wheel and blade and getting down into the seed trench.”
4. At the back of the planter, take a look at the closing wheels. Make sure pivot points are in good conditions, that the wheels aren’t too loose, and that there aren’t any broken springs. “Wheels should be centered and set to provide uniform pressure,” adds Jennings. If you have heavy residue or plant in no-till conditions, you may want to offset the closing wheel position. “The Kinze closing wheel assembly has two locations for spindle bolts, so you can position wheels directly opposed or slightly staggered,” he says. “The offset can help promote material flow to prevent plugging between the wheels.”
5. Test seed meters. “The soil-engaging components are one piece of the puzzle,” explains Jennings. “But you also need to run your seed meters. If you have some seed, use this as a test sample because this will be the most accurate test results you can get.”
6. On the front of the row unit, check parallel arm bolts and bushings. You will want to make sure these are tight, that down-pressure springs and hooks aren’t broken or lost, and that the opening side of the down-pressure hook is toward the hopper on the row unit. “These springs should be in the lightest setting to get the job done,” advises Jennings. “This is a field check, but this time of year you can back them off and have them on the same setting.”
7. Step back and take a look at the entire setup. Make sure the hitch height and parallel arms are running parallel to the ground. “This will affect how the row unit rides and the planter's performance in the field,” says Jennings.
8. When you hook the planter up to the tractor, start to make some final checks. “Make sure all safety and warning lights are working well,” says Jennings. “When traveling at night, safety is one of the most important things.”
9. “Seed meters, row unit components, and hooking the planter up to the tractor are all important,” says Jennings. “But don’t forget the technology.” Check to make sure you have the newest software updates so you have the latest functionality ready to go when it’s time for planting.
10. Do a static test run. “Some of the new technology, including electric-driven meters or multihybrid planters, allows you to do static testing in the shed or in your yard,” explains Jennings. “You can fire up the planter and let all of the systems operate while sitting still, so you can check meters, fertilizer components, etc., before you go to the field.”