With the beautiful spring weather that we have been receiving in March, it is hard not to think about spring planting. It safe to say it is way too early to plant corn as we head into the end of March, but that does mean that we still have time to organize and plan for spring activities.
The key to growing a good crop is getting it off to a good start. Fertility plans, hybrid selection, equipment maintenance, and planter performance are all essential in allowing you to plant the best crop possible and maximize its potential. It is a great time to review your cropping plans and make sure that you have accounted for everything that will be needed. I also suggest checking your feed inventories to make sure that you have enough feed to make it well into the fall of 2021. Managing your maturities and acres will allow you to harvest on time and ensure that you put up enough feed for the coming year, including early feed if needed. See the updated Maizex Crop Planner that will help you plan for the coming season on your farm.
We are all busy, and I feel that some producers neglect equipment maintenance and calibration. This can lead to doing a poor job in the field or untimely breakdowns that may set you back on optimal planting conditions and timing. Proper setup of tillage equipment allows you to do a better job with fewer passes. The time spent on your planter can be some of the most important time invested during the year. Planter maintenance, including bearings, roller chains, bushings, and row-unit calibration, are essential in getting each seed where it needs to be. I strongly recommend the following:
- Replacing any noisy bearings, rusty chains, and loose bushings on parallel arms.
- Check that your disc openers are still within recommended limits and that the tail stock and closing wheels are inline with the double-disc openers.
- Calibrate all units and check for singulation performance every couple of years. If you can’t remember the last time it was done, then it is likely the meters should be gone over by a professional.
- See the planter checklist at the end of this article for reminders on the basics in going over your planter.
- Review the informative video, “Ten Point Planter Checklist with Missy Bauer.”
- Register for our free online Maizex Planter Clinic featuring a live Q&A session, on Thursday, April 1, 2021, at 10:00 am Eastern. You can register here.
March is also a good time to evaluate your alfalfa fields. If there was any heaving or winter kill, it is not too late to terminate the stand and plan to establish a new one. With strong crop prices, every acre needs to preform to its maximum. Terminating hay fields after three to four years is essential to maintain productivity. This also allows for more first-year corn acres and hopefully reduces the number of corn-on-corn acres needed on your farm. The OMAFRA Alfalfa Stand Assessment document is a good tool to help you evaluate your fields.
Planter Checklist – The Basics
Planting with increased depth accuracy, superior seed placement, and better seed singulation are all important topics that can only be accomplished if we look after the basics. Spending money on all sorts of add-ons will never improve your planter performance if the components that touch the soil are not well maintained or assembled properly. The checklist below outlines the important and fundamental things you can do to plant your best stand.
- Gauge-wheel spacing to disc must be snug; having the wheel snug ensures the seed trench stays intact.
- Seed disc replacement
- a 15” blade that is now down to 14 ½” should be replaced. Measure to have 1½” contact. It does not have to be the old standard of 2¼” like it used to be—new discs do not flex in the same way.
- Parallel arms & bushings
- In the up position, lift up and to the left on the unit and watch for any movement; 1 to 1½” movement is too much.
- Bottom linkages are normally the first to go, so inspect here first.
- Parallel arms & bushings can be left-sided or right-sided; make sure you have the right one for the job.
- If using a chain-driven planter:
- Any chatter while the chain drives will cause a vibration or jerky movement within the seed-metering system, leading to skips or doubles; all that “sexy” accuracy talk goes out the window with a stiff joint or two on a chain.
- Lubricate chains on a regular basis during planting. If they do not easily flex when off, replace.
- Tire pressure is important
- Slight changes make the biggest differences! New tires, more or less air, and bigger tires can all effect seed drop. Inflate all tires on your planter to the recommended air pressure. Check this frequently through planting.
- Check cutting coulters
- Beveled edges must still be visible in order to cut through residue; otherwise, replace.
- Check your seed tubes
- Ensure all seed tubes are in good shape without cracks or splits at the bottom where seed is dropped into the seed trench.
- Check your seed tube protectors that run below your seed tubes. If worn or not there, it is time to invest.
- If you have a seed tube brush, clean the inside of seed tubes to remove debris and ensure your monitor lens is clean. If you do not have a seed tube brush, consider it a gift to yourself for this spring.
- Invest in Keaton seed firmers
- These are a must-have (all rows!); it is the last piece of the planter to touch the seed. Ensuring good seed-to-soil contact is a must. Floating seeds will lead to uneven emergence.
- Note that it is important to replace Keaton seed firmers on a timely basis. When the bottom is too rounded, it can lead to variable-depth seed placement.
- Fertilizer tubes
- Check all fertilizer tubes, liquid or dry, to ensure they are free of debris and are not cracked or split.
- Check liquid openers to ensure they are free of debris.
- Grease is the word
- Ensure that gauge wheel arms and any other moving parts requiring grease are maintained on a regular basis.