I am a family farmer in Bureau and Marshall County. Late night host David Letterman had a Top 10 countdown as a longtime popular segment on his show. My last name is Murphy, not Letterman, but here is my Top 10 Planter list for 2022.
Ignoring differences in all the available options of soil preparation, a couple planter attachments are most common across Illinois, row cleaners and no-till coulters. Row cleaners are designed to clear a path of surface residue and obstructions ahead of the opening disks. No till coulters are designed to fracture the ground, slice residue ahead of the disk openers. Both should be in good condition and are adjustable to hit depth and cleaning targets.
Accomplished by a pair of disks. Mounted on an angle. The disk diameter reduces over time as they wear. They can also warp out of shape over time or impact. Coarser textured soils like sand and tighter soil structure wear the opening disks, and all planter components faster. On John Deere and Kinze planters the disks should contact each other for 1.5-2” on the leading edge. This is accomplished with shims behind the disks. Too much contact wears the disks and bearings prematurely, add shims. Not enough disk contact doesn’t leave a clean V furrow bottom, more of a “W”. Case IH planters use staggered opening disks, and they will have a small gap in the bottom.
Key to even emergence. You would like to plant into moisture if possible. Don’t be afraid to adjust that setting to get into a consistent moisture. It is better for all plants to emerge altogether a day or two later than unevenly tomorrow.
The downforce system on the planter has a first priority of keeping the planter row unit at depth. The gauge wheel arms should be against the depth stop 100% of the time. But excess pressure has a negative effect of compacting the soil underneath the gauge wheels. So, there’s no perfect amount or value. You need enough to keep your set depth as much as possible. The more variable the soil conditions, the more margin you likely need.
Is a calculation of how many times the meter releases a single seed. Multiples and skips lower the score. Adjusting or replacing the seed meter is the method of improvement here.
Seed to soil contact is critical. Firming the seed into the bottom of the furrow is a fast and simple way to start that process.
For decades, the speed of the planter was limited by the shape of the seed tube and the distance the planter traveled forward while the seed was in the air. The technology that has given the ability to plant at higher speeds, has made the spacing extremely accurate at any speed. The benefits of even seed spacing is powerful at any planter speed.
Closing has gotten the lion’s share of attention from planter manufacturers and aftermarket companies the last couple years. The two common problems are incomplete closing (air pockets) or delayed emergence from dry surface dirt being knocked in next to the seed by the wheels. There are numerous modifications available, in addition to simply adjusting the force applied by the furrow closing system.
A young corn plant that has just germinated is looking for nutrition, phosphorous primarily. The phosphorous stored in your soil doesn’t mineralize until the soil temp gets to 65 degrees. If you pull the trigger to plant at 50-55 degrees, how many days or weeks are you asking your young corn plant to live without soil available macronutrients? Earlier planting and later maturity corn has driven a resurgence in this practice. We must be picky with the product because it will be near or on the seed. Jar test any mixes of products that come to the farm gate and be mindful of seed coat quality if applying any product to the seed.
With the sharply rising costs of nutrients, and the push for efficiency, the planter is now asked to do more jobs than ever. Most look at planter fertility as an unnecessary complexity. Its necessity might look different in today’s environment of grain and fertilizer prices 2-3 times just one year ago. The planter gives us the ability to get fertilizer in the right place (near the row), and right time (start of the growing season), and right rate (customizable).