5 planter-maintenance details to add to your list this season

There are no do-overs for planting.

Barring a weather disaster that forces a replant, you have one opportunity each year to get your soybeans in the ground.

“You only plant a crop once, so when you get out there, you want everything to work,” says Mark Stage, master service technician for Schuneman Equipment in Tyler, Minnesota. “There’s usually a small window, so you can’t afford not to plant when it’s time.”

Proper planter preparations are important to make the most of limited planting time and to ensure valuable seed can take advantage of the best possible growing conditions.

Optimize your planting window for better, more uniform emergence by taking time to make sure all planter parts are working properly before heading out to the field. 

In addition to necessary tasks, like cleaning, greasing and oiling, today’s technology-driven planters require attention to important details.

1. Good communication: Stage says more planter service calls deal with electronic issues than with mechanical problems. You need to make sure software updates are completed to keep controllers and monitors communicating.

2. In a pinch: Keeping wiring harnesses secure and free from pinching can help eliminate electrical issues. Stage says it’s a good idea to use tie bands to secure harnesses to prevent pinching, including when the implement is turning.

3. Well adjusted: Stage recommends you go through each planter row unit to clean, adjust and set seed meters.

4. Leave the cab: Monitoring systems on most planters are very high tech and accurate. This gives you a clear picture of what’s happening behind them and can alert the operator if adjustments need to be made. However, Stage says it’s still a good idea leave the cab and check the soil to make sure seed is being planted at the proper depth and spacing. That includes counting seeds in the seed trench to be sure the right populations are actually being planted.

5. Under pressure: Setting the down pressure to achieve the right seed depth for the soil types and conditions can be critical for preparing a seed trench that yields good germination and emergence. Stage says you should not rely on last year’s settings, but should adjust to current conditions.

Shop around for pre-season maintenance packages that dealerships offer to make sure all software updates are installed, the planter is hooked up correctly and system checks are made. Some dealerships offer to accompany you in the field on the first day of planting to make all the necessary adjustments.

Spring can be a rush as you deal with a multitude of decisions. However, planter prep work is time well spent because “once the crops come up, it’s too late,” adds Stage.