Spring is upon us. Is your planter prepped? From seed meters to disk alignment, there’s a lot to be checked, adjusted or fixed so your planter reaches peak performance. Experts offer the following tips for prepping your no-till planter.
Metering units: To avoid skips or multiples, it’s essential that the metering units function properly. “To guarantee optimal performance, take metering units apart every winter,” says Sjoerd Duiker, soil management specialist at Penn State University. “Remove dirt and clean the hood with soapy water. Replace cracked plastic covers. Replace broken fingers in a finger-pickup meter.”
If using a finger pickup meter, make sure the belt isn’t cracked. It should flex and be clean, Duiker adds.
He also recommends taking your finger pick-up meter to the dealer for calibration. “Have it calibrated every year or every 300–400 acres,” Sjoerd says. “Take a bag of your own seed with you, and give him the correct speed at which you’ll be driving.”
Vacuum air meters should be checked for leaks and appropriate air pressure.
Planter units: Accurate depth placement is dependent on steady, firm planter units. “You should not be able to easily lift up your unit or move it sideways,” say Duiker. “Look across your planter units from the side. Are they all at the same height? If one unit is either up or down compared to the others, it needs work.”
He adds that bolts should be tightened and additional bushings added. “Also check for cracked or broken seed hoppers. They must be replaced,” he says.
Seed-opener disks need to have a minimum diameter (check operator manual) to place seed at the appropriate depth. “Seed-opener disks need to come together in the front,” Duiker says. “Stick two business cards between the openers and move them as close together as possible. If opener disks are worn too much, you’ll get a W-shaped seed slot instead of the desired V shape.”
Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer, adds that furrow points should be replaced when seed-opener disks are replaced. “The furrow point gradually wears as seed opener discs are moved inward to maintain a sharp soil entry point,” he says. “Furrow points also need to be replaced when the point is too worn to create the furrow bottom.”
Depth wheels: Depth wheels should run tight against disks and be firm to the ground. “Make sure depth-gauging wheels are firmly on the ground. To check for proper depth, try to spin or slip the wheel when it’s on the ground. If you can spin it at all while on the ground, you’ll need more weight or down pressure when planting,” says Hanna.
To maintain the depth wheels, Duiker recommends changing washers from inside to out, or outside-in. “If this doesn’t resolve the problem, the depth wheel arm needs to be replaced,” he adds.
Closing wheels: In most closing systems, down pressure can be adjusted. “There’s an adjustment for the closing wheels; be sure to use it,” says Hanna. “No-till situations can require stronger down-pressure.”
When adjusting, be sure the spring is intact and not damaged or worn. Also, “bearings cannot be wobbly or too tight,” says Duiker. “The bottoms of rubber or cast-iron closing wheels need to be 1.5-2 in. apart.”
Alignment: Coulters, opener disks and closing wheels should be aligned. Duiker recommends using a rope. “Take a rope and pull it straight from the front coulter to the closing wheels,” he says. “The firming wheels, seed openers and coulters should all be in line.” He adds that the closing wheels should not run on top of the seed furrow.
For more on adjusting your planter for no-till systems, check out the videos from Iowa Learning Farm at http://www.youtube.com/IowaLearningFarm.