“If you’re running the heavy-duty openers, you should have 1 to 1.5 inch of blade contact. To check that, take a piece of notebook paper, fold it in two, slide it into the top side of your disk, and make a mark. Then, slide it in from the bottom side and make a mark, and measure in between. Check that in multiple locations. It should not go all the way through.”

To check a no-till coulter, take a 2-by-6 or a 2-by-8, put it parallel to your row units underneath the planter, and lower the planter until the double-disk openers make contact.

“When you do that, you had better be able to spin that no-till coulter. It should be 1/4 to 3/8 inch higher than your double-disk openers.”

Turning to residue management, Lehmkuhl says it doesn’t start in the spring when you get into the field with your planting equipment.

“It starts at harvest. It doesn’t matter about the tillage — it starts with the combine and making sure the residue is distributed across the entire width of that machine.

“If we hairpin residue under the seed after planting, and the wind blows for awhile, it’ll dry it down in the seed trench and wick moisture away from the plant, and you could have a late emergence.”

Row cleaners are beneficial for a planter, he says, regardless of the tillage system. “They smooth out the row unit to give your seed metering device a better ride. It also helps to prevent residue from becoming hairpinned in the seed trench, and this is where seedling blight comes from in some cases.”

Looking at a floating versus a fixed-row cleaner, Lehmkuhl says floating row cleaners are more consistent as you go through a field.

“I like to see a floating row cleaner with treader wheels and a straight spike. Manufacturers now offer the ability to adjust row cleaners from the tractor cab. That is very important because most growers don’t want to get out and make those adjustments.”

Seed firmers are important when getting seed down into the bottom of the “V” in a uniform depth, he says.

Several closing-wheel systems are currently on the market, says Lehmkuhl, and many manufacturers have attachments for closing wheels on the back of a planter.

“In heavy clay soils, two spikes can be too aggressive. If the ground is wet and marginal when planting, we can dry it out down to the seed zone.

“If you’re running any type of spiked closing-wheel system, a drag chain is a must. It’s a benefit on any type of closing-wheel system. I’d like to see one spiked and one rubber on a closing-wheel system. On newer planters, you can stagger the closing wheels.”

The closing-wheel bracket, in the back of the planter, should be level or high in the back, especially if you’re running spikes, says Lehmkuhl.

When it comes to planters, it’s all of the little things that ultimately make a difference, he says.

 (To see the first article in this series, see Planter Clinic Part 1: Finely tuned planter can't overcome other deficiencies. The second article is at Planter Clinic Part 2: Tuning your planter to maximize yield and profit).



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