WESTERN PRODUCER — Running new fancy planters is fun.
Working on dirty, used ones is less fun.
But huge problems can be avoided if farmers take the time to make sure their equipment is set up the way it’s supposed to be.
“If we don’t do good maintenance, it’s going to defeat that technology,” said Dustin Weinkauf of Precision Planting to farmers in Manitoba’s Red River Valley.
Weinkauf said poor maintenance of planters can lead to bad row spacings, poor emergence and other yield and profitability killing problems.
Many problems come from a simple cause, rather than a complicated agronomic or software issue.
“It’s all maintenance and mechanical,” he said about basic problems.
“It can all be fixed 110 percent on the planter.”
For instance, planters should be levelled every year. How many farmers do that?
When Weinkauf asked farmers at St, Jean Baptiste, Man., Farm Days about that, only one put up his hand. An un-level planter will cause many problems with the crop it plants. With the wrong pressure, the seed just won’t do well.
Different soil situations can require different weights on the planter. Farmers need to be able to react to dry or wet soils by adjusting ballast if that’s the case or they’ll face a disappointing crop.
Parallel arms must be in good shape. They should be tight and not move side to side or up and down. Farmers should check for that.
Disc openers can’t do their job if they are worn out and ground down. Getting cheap worn-out discs from a neighbour who’s replacing his with new discs is a bad deal.
“Don’t do that,” said Weinkauf.
The seed tube guard needs to be in good shape. Farmers rarely realize it, but the guard doesn’t just protect the tube. It also keeps the side of the trench open so the firmer can get down to the bottom.
Opener discs shouldn’t be wobbly. Gauge wheels should be shimmed tight to the disc. That will stop dry soil from the surface falling to the bottom.
How to check if they’re right?
“Slap a GoPro on there to see what it’s doing.”
Calibrating the planter depth is important, but few do it. It can be put up on blocks or boards to check.
Meters must be tested to make sure they’re working.
All these activities take time, but making sure the planter is operating right is essential if a farmer wants the seed to go in right.
“It’s something we can do in the off-season,” said Weinkauf.