Planter Adjustments

Originally written February 1, 2006 | Last updated August 21, 2014

Follow the operator's manual recommendations for correct preparation of the planter for field use.

  1. Inspect and level planter
    • Improper leveling of the planter can cause irregular seeding depth that may result in seeds being planted too deep or too shallow.
    • Generally, the tool bar or main frame should operate parallel to the ground, both front to rear and side to side.
    • Leveling pull-type planters primarily involves adjusting the hitch position and setting the cylinder stop on the carrying wheels.
      • To level from front to rear, the hitch can be raised or lowered by adjusting the bolt position where the hitch clevis attaches to the planter tongue.
    • Three-point lift arms or gauge wheels can be used to establish the proper height of the tool bar above the ground on semi-mounted and mounted planters.
      • To level these planters from side to side, adjustments may be required in both the gauge wheels and the lift arms.
      • Top link adjustments generally are used to level mounted planters from front to rear.
      • The cylinder stop on lift assist wheels are used for front to rear leveling semi-mounted planters.
    • On planters equipped with runner or slot shoe seed furrow openers, the planter should operate with the back of the opener slightly lower than the front.
      • This "tail down" position helps create a well-formed seed furrow with a firm bottom.
      • A firm bottom is required for planters which use a narrow seed firming wheel to push the seed into the soil.
  2. Adjust planting depth and seeding rate
    • To achieve uniform soil penetration, planters used in no-till may require more weight than ones used in tilled soil.
    • Down-pressure springs generally are used to transfer weight from the toolbar to the row units.
    • Usually located on the parallel linkage supporting the row units, down pressure springs may need tightening to achieve greater soil penetration.
  3. Inspect equipment after the planting season when more time is available to replace worn or broken parts.
    • Check shafts, bearings, seals and gaskets for wear and replace them as necessary.
    • Pay close attention to fiberglass and plastic parts since they may become brittle and crack with age.
    • Replace worn parts, especially in the seed metering and drive components.
    • Lubricate all chains and grease fittings and replace if necessary.
    • Check all bolts and clamps for proper tightness.
    • On older planters, springs may need to be added or existing springs may need to be replaced with stronger ones. The frame must be heavy enough to prevent the springs from lifting the drive wheels off the ground. If necessary, weights may be added to the frame, or liquid fertilizer tanks may be kept partially filled with fertilizer or water.

A range of three to seven miles per hour usually gives satisfactory seeding rates.

  • Under cloddy or rough field conditions, ground speed should be lower to avoid equipment bounce and subsequent slippage of the drive, loss of depth control and inadequate seed covering.
  • Finger pickup planters tend to increase seeding rates at higher field speeds because more than one kernel may be dropped at a time.
  • Problems with air planters vary depending on the design, but at higher speeds, skips or doubles may occur.
  • Seeding rates are reduced with plate planters because the seeds do not always drop into the cells at higher speeds.

The devices driving the seed metering mechanism can be carrying wheels, gauge wheels, press wheels or coulters. Slippage of these drive units can result in seeding rates that are less than desired.

  • Slippage of press wheel drives may occur more often than with carrying or gauge wheels because they operate in soil loosened by the seed furrow opener. While additional weight or down-pressure springs can reduce press wheel slippage, too much weight on the press wheel can cause excessive soil compaction around the seed, resulting in poor emergence.
  • Soil conditions are a factor influencing slippage of carrying wheel, gauge wheel and coulter drives. Loose or tilled soil conditions increase the potential for slip, especially on coulter drives. On planters with carrying and gauge wheel drives, additional weight can help reduce slippage.

Tire pressure is important in carrying and gauge wheel drives. Tires inflated to the recommended level tend to make planting more accurate.

  • An under-inflated tire has a smaller circumference, causing more rotations at a given ground speed. This causes the metering mechanism to drop more seeds, and overplant.
  • Conversely, over-inflated tires cause under-planting.

Planter Performance

The uniformity of seed or plant spacing can be used to judge planter performance. Using this as a criterion, research has been conducted in Nebraska to evaluate planter performance in different tillage systems. Results showed that seed spacing uniformity in current planters was unaffected by tillage systems. Performance in no-till and other reduced tillage conditions was as good as the performance in cleanly tilled, residue-free conditions.

With accurate seed placement, competition for nutrients and soil moisture is reduced and crop yields can be increased. Regardless of the tillage system used, successful planting can be achieved by maintaining and properly adjusting planter equipment.

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