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Planter Prep

December 17, 2011
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor

Corn yields improve an average 4.2 bu. per acre as a result

While there’s a lot of winter left, many farmers have planting on their mind. They’re not wasting any time getting started with their corn planter preparations.

That’s true for Leon Knirk, who farms near Quincy, Mich. It pays for itself, he says, to spend up to three days and $150 per row prepping his planter. Plus it minimizes potential downtime in the field during planting season.

"Improved stand counts and ear counts in my fields have repeatedly proven that this process is worth the effort," Knirk says.

Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer says farmers who properly prepare their planter, maintain its performance during the season and drive no faster than 5 mph when planting corn can achieve a final ear count that is within 1,000 to 1,200 of their targeted population.

A split-planter study by Pioneer Hi-Bred shows an average yield improvement of 4.2 bu. per acre when a planter is suitably prepped.

From hitch pin to closing wheels. The key, Bauer says, is checking each facet of the planter and making adjustments before and during the season.

"I tell farmers to inspect everything involved with the seed transmission: chains, sprockets, bearings, idlers and clutch assembly, including all seed metering components as well as the meter itself," Bauer says.

Other factors farmers need to evaluate include: parallel arms, row cleaners, no-till coulters, gauge wheels, disk openers, seed tubes, closing wheels and seed placement.

This winter, Bauer is hosting five hands-on Corn College Planter Clinics throughout the Midwest and mid-South. For a list of dates and locations in addition to registration information, see the box at right. All major planter makes and models will be covered.

Start in the shed. In late winter, Knirk pulls the planter into his machine shed, where he checks each part and replaces any worn items.

"We routinely replace all of the disk opener blades each year," Knirk says. "We also look for any bent machinery pieces, parallel arms that don’t seem to be quite square and gears that have shifted. We lubricate everything."

One of the best investments Knirk says he has recently made is purchasing a mechanized spinner that allows him to check the performance of planting row units with little effort.

A small motor similar to those used to calibrate dry insecticides can be hooked up to the main driveshaft and used to spin the planter, Bauer says.

"First, spin the planter with the boxes on to help you determine if there are issues with the seed shaft alignment to the meter," she explains. "Then, with the planter boxes off, run the planter and look for frozen links or problems with idlers or rollers."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-December 2011

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