Part 1 Planter Prep Series: Tune Your Planter for a Perfect Stand

March 15, 2016 08:32 AM
Part 1 Planter Prep Series: Tune Your Planter for a Perfect Stand

Use this 5 part series to prep your planter and plan your planting strategy

At this point in the winter, spring can’t come fast enough. Longer days, warmer temperatures and hints of green will be here before you know it. Don’t waste time that could be spent prioritizing and planning for what’s to come and prepping your planter. In tight margins, using your time, resources and inputs wisely is even more important. —Staff report

From the comfort of your shop, use these tips from Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer to prep your planter for the field:

  • To inspect the transmission system, hook a small motor to the main driveshaft and spin the planter. With the planter boxes off, run the planter and look for frozen links or problems with idlers or rollers. 
  • To check bearings, place the tip of a long screwdriver on the housing and hold the other end to your ear. Bearings that are beginning to fail sound gravelly.
  • To inspect the seed meter drive system, spin the system with the boxes in place but unlatched. When the system is running, feel each box for vibration.
  • Whether you run a finger or vacuum meter, calibrate using the shape and size of seed you will plant.
  • To center row units, use a tape measure to mark a known point on the main toolbar out from the row unit. Measure each side. If they aren’t close, you have a twist. You might be able to bend the units back straight; if not, replace the main part of the unit.
  • To check parallel linkage, grasp the rear of the row unit and try to jerk it up and down. If there’s slop or play, first try to tighten the bolts and see if that corrects it. If not, take out the bolts and examine the threads. If worn, replace the bolts and bushings.
  • A no-till coulter should run at least ¼" above the bottom of the double-disk openers. To set coulters, raise the hitch high enough to level the main toolbar. Stick a second level under the double-disk openers and measure the distance between the top of the level and the bottom of the no-till coulter. If you don’t have at least ¼", raise your no-till coulter. If the no-till coulter is as high as it will go but still not high enough, loosen the bottom two bolts and insert washers.
  • To check gauge wheels, push them into the up position and pull out on them. See if there’s any space between the disk opener and the gauge wheel, to the point that when you drop the gauge wheel you can hear and feel it rub against the disk opener. 
  • Jerk on the gauge wheel to see if there’s play in the shaft. If you can’t tighten the shafts, buy rebuild kits.
  • On most planters, new disk openers are 15" in diameter and should be replaced when they measure 14½". Case IH planters are the exception: New disk openers are 14" and should be replaced at 13½".
  • To check the point of contact of the double-disk openers, insert two business cards—one from the top and one from the bottom. Push them toward each other until they won’t slide any farther. Measure the distance between the cards. Check with your manufacturer for the proper point of contact—it can vary from 1" to 2½". Take this measurement four times. If you can’t achieve the proper point of contact by moving shims, the blades are warped or worn too small.
  • Make sure seed tubes aren’t cracked, bent or worn. If you replace the seed tube, replace the guard. 
  • To align closing wheels, set your planter on concrete and drive forward. The scratch line from the double-disk openers should be centered between the closing wheels. 
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