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.
Overlooked Planter Maintenance
Feb 07, 2013
Customers are starting to think about planting, and I'm getting more questions about what to fix or repair on planters. Everybody is pretty well up-to-speed on replacing worn disk openers and identifying frozen or failed closing wheel bearings. Here are a few items that sometimes get overlooked during planter maintenance:
-If the disk openers are replaced, replace the "frog," the "divider" or whatever you call that tapered metal piece that fits snugly between the front edges of the disk openers at the bottom of the row unit's shank. That chunk of metal is a type of scraper, and needs to lightly rub the inside edges of the disk openers. If you don't replace that scraper when you replace the disk openers, you may have trouble with moist dirt plugging the unit if we get a damp spring.
-If you use a wand type seed firmer--a long plastic tail that trails behind the disk openers to press seeds to the bottom of the seed furrow--check each wand for wear and flexibility. The bottoms of the wands will wear in a V-shape. The bottom should be relatively square. Over time the plastic of the wands can lose their flexibility, and don't press as firmly against the bottom of the seed furrow as they should. The best way to check a seed firming wand is to buy or borrow a new wand and hold it alongside your old wands. Differences in thickness and flexibility will be obvious. FYI---the manufacturer of a popular seed firming wand says on their website that it's normal to replace wands after three planting seasons.
-Remove seed tubes from the row unit and check them for damage. Check the top of the tube for bent or crack plastic that will keep the discharge chute of the seed meter from fitting into the seed tube properly. Check the middle of the tube for cracks---I don't know how or why tubes get cracked in the middle around the seed tube sensor's "eye," but they do. And check the bottom to make sure the end isn't worn on one side or cracked from contact with a rock. The seed meter can release seeds at perfect intervals to provide perfect seed spacing in the furrow, but if the seed tube has flaws that make the seeds ricochet it messes up the timing as they fall through the tube.
And here's something I hadn't thought about, until I was at a training class for planter maintenance: Everybody wants the proverbial picket fence final stand of corn. If the germination on your corn is 98 percent, and you're planter has been checked to ensure it will plant at least 98 percent accurate--then you'll never be able to plant better than 96 percent accuracy. It's tough to plant perfectly in an imperfect world.