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Planter Considerations for Peak Performance
Simerjeet Virk, Research Engineer, Precision Ag & Machinery Systems, UGA
Wesley Porter, Extension Precision Ag and Irrigation Specialist, UGA
For growers who are planning to plant soon or in next few weeks, if they have not already done so for corn planting, this is the perfect time to check your planter and perform maintenance on different components to ensure peak performance during planting. Planting mistakes due to improper setup and maintenance can lead to costly emergence penalties that impact yield potential. While doing planter checks, growers should pay special attention to the following three major systems on their equipment:
A Furrow opening system consists of double-disc openers, gauge-wheels, seed depth and downforce control. Remember that the main objective of these components is to create a well-defined seed trench at the desired seeding depth with no side-wall compaction or caving side walls during planting. Opening-discs should be checked for any wear, and if the discs form a true V-shape furrow during planting. Gauge-wheels should be checked for any wobble and adjusted so they run tight against the opening-discs. Seed depth and downforce should be adjusted carefully to achieve the desired planting depth. Direct measurements on the planter as well as field checks should be done to verify seeding depth. It is highly suggested that you check every row, not just a few.
The function of a seed metering and delivery system is to meter the seeds at the desired seeding rate and deliver metered seeds to the furrow. Poor seed metering can lead to lower or higher populations and uneven seed spacing both of which can impact yield. Seed meters should be tested for singulation and any skips or multiples on a test stand to check meter performance. A well-tuned seed meter should provide 99-100% singulation with no skips or multiples. Seed meters should be examined for any worn parts, rubber seals, and other components such as extractor, brushes and doubles eliminator. Seed tubes should be replaced if they have worn or cracked edges. Check and clean any obstructions from the seed tubes before planting.
A furrow closing system consists of a solid single press wheel or a pair of wheels to close the opened furrow in a manner that promotes adequate soil-to-seed contact for rapid germination and timely emergence. Closing wheel(s) should be perfectly aligned behind the double-disc openers and adjusted to apply adequate pressure on the furrow. Selection of closing wheel(s) can vary depending on soil type, texture and field tillage conditions.
When doing planter checks listed above, growers should follow the recommended settings for different planter components (such as vacuum based crop and seed size) as outlined in the operator’s manual. For growers using any technology (GPS, seed monitor, etc.) during planting, check all connectors and wiring harnesses for any damage or loose connections. Make sure that GPS and seed monitoring display have the latest firmware installed before heading out to the field.
It is highly suggested that you monitor soil temperature and moisture conditions prior to planting. These conditions can have a drastic effect on planter performance. If a soil is drier or of a heavier texture typically more downforce is required, and planter depth may need to be adjusted. Conversely, a soil that is of lighter texture or has a higher soil moisture will require a lower downforce and potentially a depth adjustment on the planter. As you transition from field to field, and planting condition it is highly
recommended that you check seed depth and spacing when first beginning in a field. This will help to ensure that planter is at the correct setting for those particular conditions. As a single planter setting is not a one size fits all. If you need assistance with planter settings and maintenance consult your owner’s manual, contact your local UGA County Extension Agent or Equipment Dealer.

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