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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

In The Shop: In Search Of Clean Seed Tubes

Mar 24, 2012

 I'm probably overlooking a really simple solution, but I have yet to find a good way to clean modern seed treatment residue from the inside of planter seed tubes. Specifically, I'm trying to clean residue from the "eyes" of the seed tube monitor sensor.

In the old days a good brushing with a seed tube brush, or a swipe with a shop rag on the end of a long screwdriver, wiped away 90 percent of the dry, dusty seed treatments seed companies used. But the new seed treatments are thicker, stickier and harder to remove. I've tried seed brushes, I've tried Simple Green, I've tried window cleaner---and still don't get the insides of the tubes as clean as I'd like.

Anything is better than nothing---simply brushing with a seed brush helps to a degree, and washing with water or spritzing with some sort of cleaning product THEN brushing is even better. But I'm enough of a perfectionist that I'd like to find some thing or some way to get all the seed treatment off the inside of seed tubes so I know my seed tube sensor is "reading" as accurately as possible.

With that preface, here are my top three reasons seed monitors don't accurately monitor seed drop:

-the monitor's speed sensor isn't calibrated. Whether it uses radar, a wheel sensor or a satellite signal, seed monitors generally need to be calibrated to that signal. Read the owner's manual for instructions on how to calibrate speed/distance.

-incorrect set-up of the monitor. On old monitors it was common to have to re-set them from "high" rate to "low" rate when switching from last year's soybeans to this year's corn, but new monitors that track field, variety, weather, moon phase and your wife's birthday are incredibly finicky about having EVERY box on every page filled withe the correct info. Owner's manuals give instructions on how to set monitors up accurately--somewhere in the hundreds of pages of computerese.

-dirty seed tube sensors. Now we're back to where we started. If all rows are reading uniformly low after several days of planting, the sensors are probably dirty. Cleaning them will help. And--this will sound weird but I guarantee it happens---on dry, windy days, seed monitors may read "odd" when driving with the wind blowing from behind the planter. It sounds stupid, but dust can blow up into seed tubes and cause erratic population readings when there is a strong tailwind in a dry, dusty field. 

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