Considerations for Peak Planter Performance (Simer Virk and Wesley Porter): For cotton growers,
this is a perfect time to start inspecting planters and perform any required maintenance on components to
ensure peak planter performance during field operation. Planting mistakes due to improper setup and
maintenance can lead to costly emergence penalties that impact yield potential. Growers can access and
utilize a planter checklist available here PlanterChecklist_C1231.pdf (uga.edu), and make sure to go
through each planter component carefully to ensure its proper setup and functioning. Please remember
that this checklist provides some general guidelines for inspection and setup of different planter
components but the exact setup for each planter component will depend on your planter type, crop being
planted (cotton in this case), and the current field conditions. Therefore, make sure to spend some time
and verify the in-field planter performance by consistently performing checks in the field during planting,
and also make any required adjustments as soil or field conditions change among or within the fields.
Here are few key points to remember related to planter setup and checking in-field performance when
planting cotton, and ensure that each planter component is optimized for the soil type and field conditions
1. Seed depth – Recommended seed depth for planting cotton is 0.5 to 1.0 inches. Verify seed depth
before planting both on a hard surface and in the field. Mechanical seed depth settings can vary among
the row-units on the same planter so make sure to check planted seed depth for each row-unit and
make necessary adjustments as needed. This is very important especially when planting at shallower
planting depths (0.5 inch) as even a small deviation from required depth setting on some row-units can
result in seeds sitting on the ground instead of in the soil with proper seed-to-soil contact.
2. Downforce – Planter downforce is important to achieve target seeding depth so make sure the
downforce system (mechanical or active) is set to apply enough downforce on each row-unit. For
planting cotton, the required downforce could range anywhere from none (just the row-unit weight
itself) up to 200 lbf depending on soil type, moisture and field conditions. Lighter sandy soils and
conventional tillage systems will require considerably less downforce than heavy loamy soils and
conservation systems. Remember it is common to have variable soil and field conditions within a
same field, so make sure to make those adjustments as field conditions change or within the same
field or from one field to another
3. Seeding Rate – Recommended seeding rate for cotton is at least 2 seeds per row-foot to attain a plant
population of 1.5 to 1.75 plants per row-foot. For growers planting closer to 2 seeds per row-foot, it is
critical to avoid any seed metering issues as it may lower the planted population below the minimum
recommended seeding rate. For growers without a seed monitor, it is highly recommended to check
seed singulation on a test stand for seed meters before planting at your preferred seeding rate and
planting speed. Unnecessary skips or multiples will result in poor or uneven stand establishment
which can further impact yield if stand is reduced significantly. Cotton seed being smaller than corn
and peanut seeds is also very sensitive to vacuum pressure, so make sure to adjust the vacuum
appropriately to avoid skips and multiples.
4. Seed Placement and Seed-to-Soil Contact – Proper setup and functioning of row-cleaners (when
planting in conservation systems), double-disc openers, gauge-wheels, and closing wheels for
prevalent field conditions is critical to attain adequate seed placement and proper seed-to-soil contact.
Make sure that the double-disc openers are creating a true V-shape furrow, gauge-wheels are running
tightly (but not excessive) against the opening-discs, and closing wheels are aligned perfectly behind
the planter and set to apply adequate pressure on the furrow.
5. Planting Technology – Issues with planting technology in middle of the planting season can cost
significant time and money. Make sure to perform a thorough and timely (at least a week or more)
inspection before planting to check status and functioning of all technology components including
GPS, seed monitor, wiring harnesses, seed tube sensors, rate control module, electric seed meters, and
active downforce system as well as for any subscription or latest firmware updates for the GPS and
seed monitoring display.
Lastly, remember that planter settings can vary from one planter to another so make sure to check and
follow the settings recommended in the operator’s manual while using the planter checklist and points
outlined above to set up your planter for peak performance.