Plan for Planting Time Perfection

The winter months are a perfect time for farmers to utilize their shop for inspecting, adjusting and completing maintenance on planting equipment. Although it seems harvest was just completed, serious preparation should begin for planting. The most important implement pass a grower makes in each field is that of a proper functioning planter (Figure 1). Mistakes with this operation can severely affect the outcome at harvest. There are several things during the growing season that we cannot control, but a proper maintained and adjusted planter is something that is needed to help maximize yields.

Figure 1. A properly adjusted planter is important for helping to maximize yield potential.

 few key components of the planting operation include the following:

  • Cutting or moving residue
  • Penetration of the unit into the soil to the desired planting depth
  • Proper singulation of seeds
  • Maintaining seed-to-soil contact
  • Closure of the seed trench with soil in good condition

The most common faults that I normally see during planting are worn parts, improper adjustments and driving too fast.

The planter should be checked closely for worn parts. The parallel linkage should be reviewed especially for wear and proper movement. It is critical for each row to follow the soil terrain to place seeds at the exact depth desired. Worn linkage can allow that row to bounce and move, causing improper placement. Seed opener blades and no-till coulter blades are also very important to help precisely place seed. Usually these blades do not wear perfectly but more in an "elliptical" pattern. They should be measured carefully for acceptable wear. Also, blade edges should be checked for wear. A severely worn edge does not allow for proper soil penetration or cutting of residue. The checking of finger units and vacuum levels are also very important. If you are unsure about tolerances, they should be checked by a professional.

When making equipment adjustments, the manufacture's guidelines should always be followed. Critical areas of adjustment include seeding depth, row unit down pressure, leveling of the planter and, of course, seed singulation.

Seeding depth is generally recommended to be 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches for corn seed and .75 inch to 1.5 inches for soybean seed, depending on soil conditions. It is not recommended to plant less than 1.5 inches because of the potential for improper corn root development. If you want to "put it in shallow" because of wet subsurface soil conditions, then you probably need to wait for drier conditions.

Row unit down pressure should be adjusted from field to field depending on field conditions. Too much or too little down pressure is a component for achieving proper seed-to-soil contact for uniform emergence. No-till conditions require a different setting than in a tilled situation.

The planter should be adjusted to help ensure it is running level with the soil surface. This helps allow for proper placement of each kernel and firming of soil behind each row.

The proper singulation of seed is the most common identifiable problem when evaluating final stands. This can be a twofold problem. One part is related to improper adjustment of finger units or improper adjustment of vacuum systems, and the other is that planting speeds are excessive. Many modern planters can singulate at higher speeds, but still the bouncing of the planter can have adverse effects on placement of seeds, both horizontally and vertically.​​​​​​​



Corn seed size and planter adjustments. Agronomy Advice. Determining down force to set your planter. Agronomy Advice.

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