It’s officially March — time to dust off your annual planting checklist. Checking equipment is imperative to ensure a smooth start to the season. So much depends on a planter’s performance — accuracy and efficiency in seeding, which results in proper plant emergence and stand count, to name a few. And with ongoing supply chain issues, if you need a part replacement for your equipment, starting early gives you more time to get the parts you need.
“The planter is such an important aspect of farming,” says David Thompson, Stine national marketing and sales director. “If you don’t get seed placed properly, you don’t obtain good seed-to-soil contact. Likemany things in farming, you only get one chance to plant it right. You might get to plant it again, but you don’t get the chance to plant it again the first time. Everything they do from now until planting is critical.”
9 tips for proper planter maintenance
With the first day of spring nearing (March 20), stay attuned to these planter prep tips to prevent untimely issues this season.
- Brush up on your equipment knowledge. First things first — read the equipment manual. No planter is the same, especially with the advancements in precision technology. These manuals outline every component of your planter, so you’ll know what to check and how it should properly operate.
- Run regular checks of software. Newer equipment is ladened with precision technology. This equipment must be calibrated to ensure all systems are a go. From seed depth to row spacing, proper seeding rates and seed-to-soil contact depend on working software.
- Proper seed-to-soil contactis a must. Growers need to check gauge wheels and disc blades to ensure proper soil penetration and seed placement. Wheels and cut blades must be clean and disc blades free of cracks and chips. Inspecting the seed tubes, meter and planter units to ensure they’re in good shape is necessary for this step, as well as checking for skips in the field or inaccurate seeding depth or singulation. In a recent episode of the Stine Seedcast, we interviewed Bryan Porter of Porter’s Ag Solutions — a company that customizes and upgrades planters. Porter notes, “Technology has allowed (growers) to sit in the cab seat, but you still need to get out and dig.”
- Check tires and lights. Ss you would your truck or tractor, check your tires for wear and tear or leaks. Make sure they have the recommended pressure, especially the gauge wheels on the planter, which helps the row units make proper contact with the ground. Turn on your lights and check that they are in working order to provide proper lighting for those early mornings and late nights in the field. Check your regular headlights, hazards and taillights.
- Make sure your planter is level. “We’ve seen in the last couple of years a lot of planters not running level,” says Porter. “Check your parallel arms to make sure they are running level through the field … Technology has gotten us to where we are, but yet we forget the simple things to have a good planting season.”
- Lubricate bearings and chains and check for kinks. Kinks or added friction can cause issues with a planter’s functionality. Make sure all bearings and chains are tightened properly as well.
- Don’t forget your meter housing. “Check all of your seals and gaskets inside your meter housing,” says Porter. “If they are weathered, get them replaced … That’s one thing you really need to check is inside the meter housing to make sure all those components are good. Also, make sure the singulators are OK and not worn out … look at knockout wheels, things like that.”
- Check hydraulics and cylinders. Hydraulic hoses and cylinders are exposed to various weather elements throughout the year, so it’s important to check for signs of general wear and tear. Make replacements and repairs where needed. For cylinders, practice folding and unfolding your planting equipment to validate they are in working order. This is critical when you have to fold your equipment near power lines or for other vehicles when traveling to and from fields.
- Keep safety top of mind.Keep yourself and others around you safe throughout the planting season. Get sleep and do what you can to stay alert while operating the equipment. Know the rules of moving equipment on public roads and around power lines. Safety is of the utmost importance during every season in agriculture.
“A little preventive maintenance goes a long way,” says Thompson. “New equipment is hard to come by. If you’re going to keep that equipment longer, you need to keep it active and keep it tuned, and it’s really important when the hours count — a high priority at planting time.”
For more tips on equipment prep, contact your local Stine sales rep or regional sales agronomist. Here’s to a safe and successful planting season!