For many of us cold-weather farmers, winter feels like an achingly long season. It’s almost hard to believe spring is just a couple of days away, but it’s time to start thinking about one of the most important times of the year: spring planting!
On our Iowa farm, we will start preparing our Kinze planter in the beginning of April. Regardless of where you are though, here are six tips to set your planter up for success:
1. Check to make sure all your bolts are tight and chains are lubricated. Check all parts that move! And don’t forget to also check the lights and safety systems.
2. Make sure tire pressure is correct on all the tires, especially the ground tires that the planter rides on. Don’t forget your planter transmission drive tires! If the tire pressures aren’t correct, it can throw your populations off on ground driven planters.
3. Check all your wear parts, like double disc openers, scrapers, gage wheels, coulters, closing wheels, trash whippers, and your seed tubes and sensors. Also, make sure there are no leaks in hydraulic hoses and replace worn parts, if necessary.
4. Check your downpressure system. Most are spring or air, but some of the newer ones are hydraulic. Make sure they’re functioning and set properly; incorrect downpressure can have a negative effect on soil compaction. If you have spring downpressure, make sure the springs are all in place and not worn out. If you use air bags, make sure they’re not leaking. (That’s what we use!) Hydraulic pressure is something that should also be checked if applicable.
5. Leveling. Make sure your planter is level. Check the hitch height and double check your planter’s manual. If your planter isn’t level, it can affect the seed depth, which can make for uneven emergence and overall negatively impact your yield.
6. Make sure your monitoring system is doing what it says it’s doing. Have an organized crop field plan, and if your monitor says you’re planting at a certain population, dig in the ground a bit to see if that’s true. Check your spacing and seed depth. If it’s reading that it’s planting, make sure that it is. Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty! And don’t forget to check for technology and software updates. Having a close partnership with your dealership is also a good idea so they’re thoroughly familiar with you and your farm’s equipment. They may have additional ideas or offer a planting prep checklist.
Double checking these six things are set up properly can ensure planting success. (Another good tip list is this one from Kinze.) Make sure you plant when it’s fit; check that the soil isn’t too cold, not too wet, that your depth and spacing are correct, etc. If you’d like to get involved on social media with this topic, check out the hashtag #plant19 take part in the discussion. Happy spring planting and cheers to good yields!
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.