EDITOR'S NOTE — The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recently hosted a Planter Clinic at the E.V. Smith Research Center in the east-central part of the state. Presenters discussed the calibration and setup of planter units, new metering technology, and the impact of planter performance on crop yields. The following is the third and final installment in a series of articles detailing information from the clinic.

The planter pass, says Bill Lehmkuhl, is sacred, and on average, most farmers have 40 to 50 times in their lives to get it right.

“When I first began conducting planting clinics, most guys spent more time setting their combine than their planter,” says Lehmkuhl, a farmer and consultant with Precision Agri-Services, in Minster, Ohio. “If we don’t get it in the ground the first time, it’s not going to be there when we get to the field with the combine.”

Lehmkuhl, who grows about 1,300 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, says that as an independent crop consultant, he doesn’t play politics very well.

“What works for one may not work for another,” he says. “I go onto a lot of farms and into a lot of shops, and I see a lot of stuff — attachments piled in a corner. A farmer might have put it on his planter at one time, and it didn’t work, so they take it off and put it in a corner.

“It’s important to try something new, but try it on two or three rows on the outside of the planter. You’ll get a good idea of how something is going to perform.”

Whether you have a new or used planter, there are things you can do to achieve peak performance, says Lehmkuhl.

“If I had a brand-new planter, I’d probably be scared to death. I’d really go through that planter before I took it to the field. I don’t care how green, red or blue your blood runs, they all have their issues, and they all need to be checked very closely before you take them to the field.

Those of you with folding planters should make sure those drives line up perfectly and your hex-shafts are lined up,” he says.

There are good equipment dealers, says Lehmkuhl, and then there are those who want to “hurry it up, set it up, and get it out the door.”

With one new 16-row planter, it took us 10 hours to make the first round around the field because there were so many adjustments that needed to be made. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s ready to go to the field.”


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Out of the bag, he says, the yield potential of corn is 300-plus bushels per acre. But from there, unfortunately, it’s all downhill.