In the Shop
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.
First Day Of Planting Landmines
Apr 21, 2013
No matter how hard you plan and prepare, the first day in the field often has hiccups. Here are some common problems we hear about at the dealership on the first day of planting:
-GPS guidance problems. It's a great idea to spend a half day driving up and down the road or around a field to check not only if GPS systems are calibrated and working properly, but to see if you remember how to operate the system. Practice setting A-B lines, curved lines, see if any auto-row-shut off/on systems are operating correctly. It's awkward to do that sort of testing with big planters, but well worth the time.
-software updates. Even if you didn't change planters or tractors, mysterious things can happen to GPS systems that are best fixed by software updates. Work with your GPS/guidance provider to determine if your systems have the best software.
-Software back-dates. Note that I said "best" software. Sometimes the latest and greatest software from the manufacturer has so many glitches and bugs that the smoothest performance comes from an earlier version of software. Again, work with your technology advisor to determine what's best for your situation.
-Test load, test plant. Some of you are fanatics about preparation, and I applaud you, because there are a surprising number of other, less organized operators who simply throw seed in their tender or planter and start planting. Or TRY to start planting.Those are the ones where I end up unloading seed tenders or planters in order to access whatever prevents things from working. I strongly advocate throwing a test sample of seed in seed tenders and loading it in to the planter, then test-planting a farmyard or small field. There's no substitute for actually running machines under field conditions to identify first-day-problems.
With a big planter, you may end up planting 15 or 20 acres around the buildings or in a field far from the road before you get the bugs out, but time spent chasing bugs will help you roll non-stop once planting weather EVENTUALLY arrives this spring.