Time is short, the sun is out and it’s time to be planting your crops for a bountiful harvest. Except your harvest won’t exactly be bountiful when you rush to sow crops without taking the necessary steps first.
We know that time is money and dithering while all your neighbours are out sowing already seems to be counterproductive. However, you’d be a complete fool if you didn’t check your equipment first. Slow, steady and precise wins this race.
Taking your planter out of the shed, coated in dust and last year’s soil, is not ideal. To ensure that your crops get the best start possible, you need to treat them right and sow them properly. For optimum yield improvement, you simply cannot jump the gun.
Incorporate this planter maintenance checklist to your farm management schedule to reap the rewards of yield improvement when it comes to harvest time.
Caring for your Planter Tick List
- Take apart your planter.
This will ensure that you know the condition your planter is in from every angle, giving you a sense of how it will work this year before you even take it out of storage. If you’ve not got the skills to take apart the machinery and put it together again accurately, make sure to have someone around who does!
- Clean your planter.
Sections are likely to be coated in dust, dirt or seed residue from last year. You’ll need to clean this off so you’re not contaminating this year’s sowing. Use the right cleaning products for this (check with the manufacturer of your specific planter) paying particular attention to the seed meter, belts, plates or whichever method your planter uses to put seeds into the ground.
- Do a quick overall inspection.
Giving an overall inspection now will make you immediately aware of any glaring issues with your planter. You’re better off finding out now that your planter needs completely replacing, rather than finding out halfway through sowing your fields when it breaks down.
Inspecting Areas in Detail
- Inspect the seed meter area to ensure it is working correctly.
Depending on your specific type of planter, you’ll be inspecting, belts, plates, tubes, spoons and other parts. Look for missing parts, jammed parts etc. Then examine the seed meter area as a whole to ensure that it’s working in unison. Count some seeds and put them through the seeder, make sure they all come out the other side.
- Inspect for signs of wear.
Take apart the seed meter and start measuring. Plates can wear down several inches over a season or two of use and holes will gradually start to wear and widen as time goes by. Lids and other container parts may also be slightly warped, cracked or broken. Check the seals for any gaps – this is especially crucial with vacuum using planters.
- Replace parts.
Replace the worn parts that you identified above.
Some parts of the seed meter will need replacing yearly such as brushes and belts. Think about the seeder in relation to the specific crop seeds you’re sowing this year – are you going to need different sized spoons, plates or belts?
- Inspect soil-interacting areas of the planter.
These areas include the underside of the planter as well as the all-important row units. Make sure no dirt is left clinging, inspect for dents or chips that could be hinting at a more serious problem.
- Inspect, sharpen or replace blades.
It’s important that these are sharp and in great condition – if not, you risk awkwardly sowing your crops at the wrong depth or angle, ruining your hopes of yield improvement.
- Inspect the drive system.
This means looking at overall structure of the planter, assessing all the chains and ensuring that everything is working together as it should be. Look for things like excessively loose chains, loose wires, bent framework or parts that look like they’re about to fall off.
- Repair the drive system.
Fire up your planter and look at it working away. Feel for any vibrations or loose movement that could literally shake the machine apart. Loose or weak chains will become even easier to spot as they move around. Tighten or replace chains if necessary or risk inaccurate sowing of the seeds as more are vibrated down to earth than needed.
- Check the bearings.
Listen for any grinding noises throughout the planting machine while it’s running – this could be a sign that something is jammed up or there are loose parts hitting each other. If you can’t figure out where the noise is coming from it may be worth taking apart the machine and putting it back together again.
- Check the wheels.
Have they worn down at all? Are they still at the correct angle? Check that they’re all in working order: loose wheels won’t form the define V furrow you need for sowing. Take a look at them while the machine is running to see if they’re likely to get jammed or if any are a bit too wobbly.
- Inspect the parallel linkage.
Take note of the bushings and mountings. Everything here needs to be tight and unworn or the planter could be a disaster. Ensure that everything is straightened up and working in unison. No arms should be bent or warped. If anything is not in order it will need fixing or replacing.
- Check the entire row alignment.
Step back and look over the alignment of the row units: anything that’s not in place should stand out for you to notice. If you’re struggling to keep everything aligned and working how it should be, check the manufacturers handbook or ask a mechanic.
- Check the tension on down-pressure springs.
Not all planters will have springs, but if yours does you’ll want to make sure they have adequate pressure after being stored for so long.
- Check the tires.
Flat tires are bound to happen from time to time but with so much focus on the mechanics we forget to check the wear on tires before they’ve fully flattened. You’ll want to keep them pumped up equally so that your planter is level: if not then you won’t be sowing at the optimum depth, no matter how much you calibrate the machinery.
- Adjust the hitch.
So you’ve thoroughly checked your machine for faults and prepared it for use this year on your fields. Now you need to adjust the hitch and calibrate the machine for your seeds. If you don’t remember how to do this with your specific machine, try looking in the manufacturers manual or search for answers online.
- Check replacement parts.
If you’ve needed to replace parts of the planter as you’ve gone through this checklist, now is the time to check that they are working properly. Don’t just assume they’re fine because they’re new. Look for any manufacturing defects and ensure that they run smoothly with the rest of your planter.
- Go for a test run.
Go for a test run, sowing a fair amount of your field and then going back to check that it’s sown properly at random intervals. Measure seed depth, check for consistency and give the machine a once over to make sure nothing has come loose during the test run. 15 minutes of sowing as a test should be plenty enough to tell if your machine is up to sowing all your fields.
Now your planter should be ready for sowing seeds at the optimum, improving your yield and proving your success at precision agriculture!
General Planting Tips
Here are a few handy tips you’ll want to consider as part of your preparation for sowing the fields.
Preparing your soil
Soil nutrition levels: another key influencer in yield improvement is sticking to a well thought out plan. You should know what seeds you’ll be sowing in which field based on a rotation that ensures the soil always has the right balance of nutrients for the crop you’re growing.
If you have the technology available you can take a sample of your soil to be analysed for nutrients to confirm that you’re planting the right seeds for this field. If not, use your knowledge of crops and data about your specific fields to be certain that you’re sowing seeds chosen from informed decisions.
Example: sowing a grass type crop after a year of tomatoes or other crop from the nightshade family is a wise decision. As you well know, sowing crops from the same family year after year can cause serious damage.
Preparing your seeds
This is especially important if you’re trying a new strain of seeds or completely new crop altogether. Check the supplier’s instructions and tips so you know exactly how your seeds should be prepared for sowing.
Ask fellow farmers for tips and experiences that they’ve had – there might be a specific trick to encouraging more growth from the crops you’ve decided to sow this year.
Some may need to be pre-soaked while others might need to be planted further apart than you’re used to. You need to understand the seed and prepare it properly to see results in yield improvement.
Check your records to see what herbicides have been used in your fields recently. Could there be a chance of lingering chemicals? When is the half-life of the herbicides used? You’ll want to be sure that any herbicides in your fields won’t have any effect on the crops you plan to sow there.
If you’re going to be using herbicides along with the seeds you sow to fend of weeds while the crops germinate, you might want to take note of weather forecasts and herbicide activation methods. Carefully plan when to sow and when to spray in unison. Rain might be necessary for activation, however torrential rains could wash away the herbicide altogether. Strong winds during spraying can cause evaporation or worse, drift.
Corn sowing tips
Before you start to sow your corn seeds, take note of these tips to ensure your corn is off to a great start for year round yield improvement.
Soil temperature. The optimum soil temperature for corn to germinate is 50°F at about 4 inches deep. Don’t just check once and go ahead with sowing, you’ll want to monitor the soil temperature every day for a while just to check it won’t dip down below 50°F again.
Find the right planting depth for your soil. To allow for proper seed to soil contact, you want to be sowing your corn at about 2 inches. By following the planter checklist above, you should feel confident about your accuracy in this. However, if your soil isn’t in the best conditions, you might want to look at planting your corn a few inches deeper so it can reach the soil moisture it needs to germinate. This is a good idea to research more if you’re dealing with sandy or clay type soils.
Adjust the population density. Corn has been progressively grown and developed to be a hardy crop, capable of tolerating stress a lot better than other grass and vegetable crops you may be used to growing. Check the strain of corn you plan to grow for data on recommended sowing conditions and density; plant too little and your plans for yield improvement will be squashed.