“This study changed the mindset of those in agriculture and how we look at planters, and how we concentrate on spacing. Because if you think about it, if I could gain you an inch, I could gain you about 2.5 bushels of yield potential.”

A Monsanto-sponsored study looked at a static plant population of 36,000 in 30-inch rows, and a uniform stand versus an erratic stand, according to Pace.

“There was about a 10-ear advantage in having uniform spacing versus an erratic stand. For each ear, we’re adding about 7 bushels of yield potential. So how do we capture that extra ear?”

Calibrating your seed meters before going to the field is the easiest money in farming that you’ll ever make, he says. “How often does everything go perfectly and beautifully on the first day of planting? If you put these meters on a test stand before you ever go into a field and start planting, you can make that first day a lot easier on yourself.

“I recommend that, no matter what you’re running, put it on a test stand and bring in the seed that you’re going to plant.

“On vacuum meters, you can figure out what vacuum you need to run. You also can figure out what plate you need to be using. We can take out a lot of guesswork by simply putting these things on a test stand and running them.”

A Pioneer-sponsored study looked at farmers who calibrated their meters before the season versus people who did not, says Pace. On average, growers saw about a 5-bushel bump from simply calibrating meters.

Meters are the heart of the operation, he says. “You need to find out what’s going on within each row of your planter and how efficient that factory is running. With the technology available today, you can do that.”

Down-force management is critically important in improving planter performance, says Pace, with factors like bounce and vibration being mortal enemies of any seed meter.

So if I know what’s going on with down-force, and I’ve got enough down-force to keep it in the ground, and I know I’m not getting too much bounce, then I know I’m giving that meter a good ride and the opportunity to perform.”

Pace encourages farmer to invest in a good planter monitor that will provide data on factors like ride, spacing and down-force. “If I know how much the planter is bouncing, then I know how much it affects the seed dropping off the plate.”

(If you missed he first article in this series, it can be found at Planter Clinic Part 1: Finely tuned equipment can't overcome other deficiencies).

Currently available technology such as planter monitors makes it possible to utilize the data coming through seed tubes in making decisions, he says.

When setting down-force systems on planters, growers tend to err on the heavy end of the spectrum, says Pace.

“Most everyone sets them for the heavier ground, because you want to be sure that when you hit a heavy spot, you’ve got enough force to get the planter into the ground.

“We want uniform depth and 100-percent ground contact, so we want to make sure we get enough depth. Typically, we carry a lot of extra weight. If we manage down-force effectively, we can improve uniform depth and optimum seed environment.”

Several factors can affect down-force, says Pace, including seed, insecticide, fertilizer, targeted depth and speed.

“The faster I go, the more weight it’ll take me to get into the ground. Standard row units weigh about 200 pounds on their own. Seed hoppers, fertilizer and insecticide could add from zero to 150 pounds of weight to that row unit, so it’s constantly changing. If you’re running row cleaners, whether they’re fixed or floating, that’s another 50 pounds of weight that can be added to that row unit.”

Whether growers are running air bags or down-pressure springs, they’ve typically got the ability to go from zero to about 400 pounds, says Pace.