Check your planter before you go to the field

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.  

As many folks have acquired new or newer equipment this year, or are planting soybeans for the first time, here are some thoughts and suggestions on planting equipment before you go to the field.

Review the operator’s manual and check the settings on your equipment. Most planters and drills have adjustments for the type and size of seed to be planted. Take for instance many of the common drills used to plant soybeans and small grains. In addition to setting the seeding rate, you must also set the feed cup gates. To plant soybeans, the seed gate at the cup must be in the proper position. If it is in position to plant smaller seeds such as wheat, it will be too close or closed and soybean seed will be damaged as it is singulated, potentially lowering germination and viability of the seed.

Check the condition of bearings and drive chains. It is aggravating to have bearings go bad when they cause the machine to stop functioning. It is also aggravating to have uneven or erratic stands which reduce yield potential. Bearings that are binding or are beginning to fail affect planter performance by not allowing the shaft to turn at an even rate. Roller chain with a few frozen links or sprockets with excessively worn or missing teeth can have a similar effect by allowing the chain to jump or skip. On new planters, check for excessive paint build up on drive components that may have been overlooked when the machine was in final assembly and setup. Drive shafts should rotate smoothly and evenly to turn the singulating mechanism smoothly and evenly, thereby dropping seed at an even rate.

Opener disks and press wheels should be inspected for wear on a regular basis. Opener disks that have become too small may not open the seed furrow properly and can affect seed placement in the furrow. In addition, worn opener disks can also affect the flow of crop residues through the drill as it moves across the field. Small openers may allow residue to accumulate on drill components which could result in plugging or poor depth control. Check the drill manufacturer’s recommendations for disk opener specifications. Regardless of the type or manufacturer of the machine, review the operator’s manual annually and check the performance of the machine often during planting. Mistakes made at planting will haunt you for the rest of the year.

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