Helping farmers prep their planters before they head to the field won’t change the price of corn, but it can still put money in their pockets. Plus, it's a huge value-added service you can provide to growers that a lot of your competition won't.
"Remember, every 1,000 ears per acre is worth 5 bu. to 7 bu.," says Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist. "It’s pretty common to pick up several thousand ears per acre as a result of good planter setup, and that can result in significant additional revenue."
Bauer recommends setting aside several days to give planters a comprehensive check-up. While you and your customers might not have the time to do that at this point, consider taking a couple of hours to half a day to check these parts of the planter.
Transmission. Look for anything that impacts how smoothly the planter runs, including chains, bearings and the main drive shaft.
"Check the alignment on the drive shaft," Bauer says. "If it’s a folding model, where it folds out, there’s usually a spot where the shafts connect with a dog-ear-type mechanism, and that needs to be in alignment. Identify potentially frozen links in chains. Consider whether bearings are going bad. Look if rollers are turning and whether idlers are worn out."
Parallel arms, bolts and bushings. Bauer says to perform what she calls "the rock test" by shaking the back of the row units up and down. If there is a lot of play in the units, Bauer suggests tightening all of the bolts.
"If they’re still loose, inspect the bolts to see if the threads are worn off and replace the bolts and bushings as needed," she recommends.
If you’re unsure--and willing to take the time--help growers replace all of the bolts and bushings on one row unit and then compare with other units.
Gauge wheel. The goal is to have little to no gap between the gauge wheel and disk-opener blades. To evaluate, lift the gauge wheel as high as it would be in the field and then pull out on it.
Disk openers. Worn disk openers won’t let you to create a true "V" bottom at planting. Check the diameter of each disk opener—Bauer allows only ½" of wear before replacing. "Be sure the point of contact is set correctly, too," she says.
Seed tubes. Remove seed tubes and make sure they aren’t broken or worn. Check the top of the tube for bent or cracked plastic that will keep the discharge chute of the seed meter from fitting into the seed tube properly. Check the middle of the tube for cracks. Bauer allows only ¼" of wear on seed-tube guards before replacing. If you replace the seed tube, replace the guard at the same time, she suggests.
Once farmers are in the field, help them evaluate whether their planter is running level. To measure planter levelness, use a magnetic level on top of the main toolbar. While the planter is in the down and in the running position have someone in the tractor pull the planter forward at planting speed. Walk beside it and watch the level’s bubble. If it’s not level, adjust the hitch height at the drawbar or three point hitch up or down to get the planter level.
Row unit down pressure is another thing to check. Bauer encourages growers to check it at least once in every field and, better still, a few times throughout the day. To know if they are running the right amount of row unit down pressure, try this. Have them stop the planter, leaving the planting units in the ground. Grab the depth-gauge wheels and see if you can turn them. You should be able to slip them with little effort. If you can’t move them, you have too much down pressure. If they spin easily, you have too little.