April's Ag Advice by April Borders Getting your crops off to a good start is essential in producing consistently high yields. This involves tillage and fertility preparations before planting plus critical decisions on date, depth and planting rates. So before planting season is here, you should be checking out your planter to make sure it's working correctly.
It pays to get your planter ready during the off-season. Check all mechanical parts and planter settings, based on guidelines on the planter manual. Be sure to check manual information on adjustment of brushes or mechanisms that meter seed. Skips caused by seed delay, as a result of a worn knock-off brush, poorly adjusted finger pickups or inaccurate air pressure, could result you 7 to 19 bushels an acre in lost yields.
The mistakes made during planting are permanent. Uneven or variable stand will also have a permanent effect on the yield potential of your crop. The only exception to this is when you get double or triple seed plantings. The University of Illinois found that double and triple seed planting actually increases yields per acre. That yield increase is often a wash at best, when costs are considered. They calculated that one double per each revolution of a meter increases seed cost by $2.81 per acre. They also noted that you would plant 8 percent fewer acres due to double or triple seed planting.
So what do you do? The first thing is to never assume a seed meter is accurate and that a planter is operating correctly. Start with your operator's manual; there is a wealth of tips to be found in that information.
If you have a vacuum or air-type meter here are some hints: Disassemble, clean and inspect the entire meter. Clean seed disks with mild soap and water. Keep individual disks with the same meter they came out of the previous season. Often disks wear to match meters' surfaces. Never store discs flat. Rather, hang them on a dowel rod or upright in a storage box.
Check knockoff brushes for wear and replace annually. Check all seals for air leaks and replace seals if necessary. Make sure release wheels and manifolds (on such planters) are aligned with drum pockets. Adjust pressure settings and disk size based on the weight of the seed. After rebuilding, have the meter calibrated using the same seed you plan to plant that season. Double check vacuum or air pressure prior to planting.
For finger pickup meters check the following: Disassemble, clean and inspect meters before planting and more often if they operate over 1,000 to 1,500 acres in a season. It is crucial to remove all rust and additives left on working parts.
Inspect back plates for wear. You don't want the wear to enter the second layer of the metal. Inspect the seed knockoff brushes and replace the brushes annually. Inspect fingers for wear and replace if wear is evident. Otherwise, remove all rust and additives from the fingers and finger cams. When reassembling the meters, it is critical to set the tension on the fingers by the operator's manual.
Examine the seed conveyor belts for wear, brittleness, and cracks and replace if necessary. Examine the conveyor's bushings, idlers and drive wheel. Make sure the conveyer housing and cover are flat and fit flush. Turn the conveyor to make sure it runs smoothly without rubbing. After rebuilding, have the meter calibrated using the same seed you plan to plant. Again it is a good idea to recalibrate during the season if the planter is covering a lot of acres.
Regardless of the type of planter that you use, always make sure that the seed drop tubes are clear and free of any obstructions. Make sure that your entire planter is operating properly, not just your meters. Preseason preparation will pay off in the long run.
For more information contact the Clay County Extension Office at 677-7111.