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For a lot of growers seeding/planting is literally just around the corner (and may have already started depending on what part of Western Canada you live in). One of the most important aspects of spring for a farmer is getting his equipment ready for the field and in my part of the world (Eastern Manitoba), the most important piece of equipment to get ready is the planter.
Experts say that 80 percent of planter set up should be done before the unit even leaves the yard. This work should have occurred weeks or even months ago already before Mother Nature allowed us to start thinking about putting the crop in the ground. The final 20 percent though is what should occur once you can get out on a field and test some things out yourself.
The first thing to check once out in the field is that the planter is level. The reason for this is that adjusting this affects every other adjustment a person will make after that.
The row units should be parallel to the ground so that the seed tube is angled in the proper position for uniform seed placement in the ground. After this, down pressure on each row should then be adjusted. Proper down pressure is important for proper seed depth due to needing to have enough weight on the gauge wheels. You should be able to slightly turn the gauge wheel when in the down position.
After adjusting this, you can now adjust seed depth on each row unit using the level on each row. This is also a great time to do a seed population check as well. By lifting one row to a ¼ inch depth and chaining up the tail, a person should be able to find the seed easier.
The last step is checking the down pressure on the closing wheels. Experts say that you should be able to dig up the seed with your fingers. If you can’t, you probably have too much down pressure on the closing wheels.
Some final tips for in-field planter set-up include starting at the front (and not the tongue) of the planter when levelling, only have the seed tank or tanks ¼ full when levelling (in order to not affect pressure), and finally on a 30 inch row, 1/1000th of an acre equals 17’5” of one row when checking population.
This is also a great time to be doing a final check over of your liquid system on your planter as well. If the system is new, you will want to calibrate a number of rows for accuracy (and recalibrate if the system has been on awhile as well). You also want to check for any leaks and pressure issues as well as any damage to seed tubes (bent, broken or worn out), manifolds (broken, cracked, cloudy or dirty), lines and any other aspect of the liquid system. Make sure any and all filters have been thoroughly cleaned (and screens are all clean and put back in!) and make sure pressure gauge is clean and visible and not damaged. A person can also check orifices as well if they want to be thorough. If you have a ground drive pump, check the oil in the pump as well as the chain and if you have an electric pump, check all the wiring and possibly test the voltage as well if need be.
I also encourage anyone to take in planter or drill clinics in your area or province. These are usually put on by equipment manufacturers or dealers as well as government and industry groups as well. These clinics can be very informative and even if you think you know everything there is to know about getting your equipment ready, there is usually a tip or two that you can pick up from the experts and that may surprise you and save you time and money in the future. It’s also a great time to network, ask questions and share ideas with other growers as well.
As you head out to the field this spring, I just encourage everyone to stay safe and well-rested as well. You can never be too careful, both on the field and on the roads. Best of luck to everyone involved in agriculture this spring and let’s hope Mother Nature is on our side!
DSM, Eastern Manitoba