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Equipment Hub: Maintain planter tech for top performance

Brad Niensteadt for Progressive Forage Published on 30 January 2019

Advances in seed genetics and other crop inputs continue to help farmers achieve higher yields. However, even with today’s high-producing seeds, maximizing crop performance depends on consistent, accurate seed placement.

New planter technologies are designed to provide greater precision and improved analysis of planting data. Precise seed placement equates to an increase in productivity, higher yields and maximized profitability.

For that reason, it’s essential to conduct maintenance of critical planter technologies during the off season, just like for basic mechanical functions, to be sure your equipment will be ready when planting season arrives.

Planter displays

The planter display is a good place to start. Farmers look to their display for assurance and control as they pull through the field. Accurate readings are essential to monitor changing functionality on the planter and leverage other inputs within the display. So before spring arrives, turn on the display to check power connections, relays and GPS operation, and that the display is correctly registering all modules.

Regardless of your display brand, confirm you are operating with the latest software versions, which in most cases are available on manufacturer websites. This will enable you to enter all of your current data, such as new hybrid and variety product numbers, as well as other farm- and field-specific information. Remember to purge out-of-date information. It can not only cause confusion but also slow down your monitor due to excess data.

Drive system

Maintaining your planter drive system will help ensure it performs properly in driving the seed meter and controlling seed populations. For mechanical ground contact systems that use spring-loaded tires, conduct a row-by-row visual inspection to check for basic issues like tire pressure, clutch alignment and lubrication. Inspect chains for any visual damage.

For hydraulic drive systems, verify that the row unit clutches and sectional controls are working as intended, in addition to the same maintenance checks cited above for mechanical ground contact systems.

Electric drive systems require less maintenance, since they have no chains, clutches or gearboxes. However, it’s important to check that the batteries are fully charged, there is no fraying or other damage to harness routing and all harness retainers are properly installed.

Down-force systems

Planting seed at a uniform depth along with consistent seed spacing is essential for optimal crop emergence and higher yields. Maintaining proper depth consistently across varying field conditions requires a down-force system that is properly selected and maintained.

For down-force systems controlled by mechanical springs, visually check to ensure clips are engaged and all components are in place. For pneumatic systems, fill the air tank and test compressor. Make sure hoses are fully seated into all connections and check for any leaks. If your planter is equipped with hydraulic down force, check wiring and hydraulic hoses, looking for issues like leaks, loose hardware and broken mounts.

Planter mechanical components

In addition to critical technology systems, be sure to identify other planter components that may need to be repaired or replaced.

  • Maintain seed meters to make sure they will properly singulate seed and deliver consistent spacing between seeds for optimal emergence. Both mechanical and vacuum seed meters should be removed from the planter and cleaned out when not in use.

    Before planting season, inspect the seed discs, singulator brush, crowder brush, wall brush and air inlet screens. Identify common wear points and clean or replace parts as needed. To ensure your meters deliver optimal performance, consider taking them to a certified dealer for seed meter testing.

  • Thoroughly inspect for any loose hardware, especially parallel arm bolts, transport and field wheel bolts and center post-bearing casting bolts (on pivot fold planters).

  • Ensure safety devices are working properly, checking that the safety chain is properly installed, safety lights work, and the slow-moving vehicle sign is attached, clean and visible.

  • Check row units and attachments, including disc opener blade and no-till coulter measurements, and replace if their diameters are 14.5 inches or less. Inspect closing wheel bearings alignment and condition, and gauge wheel adjustment and wear.

  • Check driveline bearings and chains, and replace as necessary.

  • Grease the entire machine and replace fittings not accepting grease.

  • Ensure your fertilizer pumps are completely cleaned out after their last use. Flush the system with fresh water to make sure there are no leaks or delivery issues.

  • Check to see the hitch height is adjusted correctly to keep the planter tongue level.

  • Finally, always refer to your operator’s and parts manuals for maintenance and parts information.

Remember, proper maintenance of your planter technologies and mechanical functions is the first step toward a more efficient planting season and, ultimately, a more successful harvest.  end mark

Brad Niensteadt is the senior service sepresentative at Kinze Manufacturing.