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At crop clinic —

By Staff | Mar 13, 2009

Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer, goes over the finer point of converting a planter to no-till for the upcoming planting season.


Farm News staff writer

EMMETSBURG – According to Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer, there are three main objectives when planting corn. Speaking to a crowd of 75 corn growers interested in converting a planter to no-till, Hanna listed the top goals as:

  • Seed depth.
  • Good seed-to-soil contact.
  • Seed spacing.

Seed depth doesn’t vary much with soil type, but seed depth should be checked if soil moisture conditions change. Soils that are beyond “moist” and perhaps are on the border line of being too wet to plant can easily compact, said Hanna.

Planter depth-gauge wheels on either side of the double-disc seed opener should not carry any more weight than necessary for them to maintain firm contact on the soil surface and gauge seed depth.

Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer, wants those seed opener discs to be pretty tight at the soil entry point, with just enough room for a business card.

Conversely, if soil is dry and difficult for the double-disc seed opener to penetrate, more weight will need to be transferred onto the row unit for the depth-gauge wheels to maintain firm contact with the soil surface. If this is not done, seed can be planted too shallow as the planter row unit rests on the double-disc seed opener with the depth-gauge wheels still off surface. Weight is transferred from the toolbar planter frame to the row units through the parallel links, usually by down pressure springs, but on some new planters by pneumatic force.

It is important to have that tool bar level. This can be squared by adjusting the hitch on the planter, or with the draw bar on the tractor. Tires also need to be properly inflated to the same pressure.

Those are some things not to get sloppy on, reminded Hanna.

Hanna didn’t put so much emphasis on the row cleaner type, but added that paying attention to the height adjustment would pay off. A variation of a half-inch too high or too low made a difference especially in a corn-on-corn situation. He urges producers to manually check planted seed depth, not just depend on the gauge setting.

Row cleaners should be turning two-thirds of the time. The purpose of the row cleaners is to clear residue without moving dirt.

Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer, wants those seed opener discs to be pretty tight at the soil entry point, with just enough room for a business card.

Planters with evenly matched seed opener discs should be pinched together at the soil entry point while planters with staggered discs are separated by narrow spacing.

An easy way to check with the evenly matched seed opener discs, said Hanna, is to insert a business card between the discs. The business card should just fit.

Another thing to check was the closing wheel system. It should be properly aligned to follow directly behind the opener. They also need to be adjusted to create soil contact without too much compaction.

Hanna suggested using these pre-planting days to go over the planter, maintaining brushes, gaskets, seed discs and air flow systems. So that when planting day arrives, the planter is ready to go.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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