Fixing What Isn't Broken

March 19, 2016 02:05 AM

Things to check on planters that aren’t broken but are misbehaving

Assuming a planter was set appropriately and operating as it should before problems developed, here are two common symptoms of poor planter performance and suggestions to fix both of them.

Seeding rates above or below target population.

  • On ground-drive planters, make sure all tires are inflated to recommended pressure. Seed transmission drive ratios are based on precise circumference of drive tires. Variations as little as 3 psi to 5 psi in tires can distort seeding rates.
  • Finger pickup planters can develop glitches on individual rows if finger springs break. If the entire planter slowly begins to plant inaccurately, check for wear to the drive pins on the large plastic wheels that drive the seed delivery belts inside finger units. Those pins start life conical, but if they develop a straight edge, or especially a “hook,” they can impart a jerking motion to the belt that degrades seed meter performance. 
  • On vacuum planters, inadequate vacuum settings allow seeds to fall off the seed plates, resulting in a lower population. Increase vacuum settings by 3'' to see if the population increases, then fine-tune up or down as needed.
  • If vacuum settings are in the recommended range for seed size but a planter underplants across all rows, slow ground speed to 2 mph to see if seeding rates improve. Poor ride quality can disturb metering and seed spacing accuracy. Remedy options include smoothing the field ahead of the planter, lowering row cleaners to clear a smoother path for gauge wheels or increasing down force on the row units. 
  • Overplanting with vacuum planters is symptomatic of excess vacuum settings or worn/misadjusted double-eliminator devices. First, experiment with reducing vacuum settings. Then adjust double-eliminator devices to a more aggressive setting on one row to see if that row’s seeding rate improves. 

Uneven seed depth in seed furrow.

  • Uneven field conditions can cause row units to climb over clods or ridges, planting a series of seeds shallower than the rest. Consider lowering row cleaners to create a more consistent path for gauge wheels.
  • Erratic seed depth can be traced to poor seed furrow formation by disk openers. Stop with the planter in the ground, then examine the open seed furrow behind the disk openers but ahead of the closing wheels. A rounded U-shaped furrow suggests worn disk openers aren’t creating a sharp V-shaped furrow. Small clods or loose dirt in the bottom of the furrow hints that excess gap, between the edge of the gauge wheel tires and the side of the disk openers, is allowing soil to crumble into the furrow before seeds fall into place. 
  • If the misplaced seeds tend to fall off the centerline of the furrow, check for a worn or damaged tip on the seed tube that kicks seeds to that side of the furrow.
  • Irregular seed depth can be the result of damp soil sticking to rubber gauge wheel tires, which increases their circumference and shallows seed placement. Aggressive settings of row cleaners, especially row cleaners that include a coulter, can expose damp soil that sticks to rubber gauge wheel tires. Seed depth varies with the amount of soil sticking to the tires.

How to Verify Seeding Rate

To verify planter settings and make adjustments, dig 171⁄2' of a row (in fields with 30" rows), manually count the seeds in that distance and multiply by 1,000 to estimate actual seeding rate, as well as verify seed spacing and depth. 

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