The 2011 planting season will be historic because of the record, or near record low stocks of soybeans, wheat and corn and a planned increase of something close to two million acres of cotton.

What crops growers will plant is still a mystery for most, but it is clear when they plant, they will need to be timely and they will need to take care of the seed they put in the ground from the time they are planted.

An often over-looked component of getting crops planted, up and growing in a precise window of time, is maintenance of spraying and planting equipment. Time will truly be money, often lots of money, when planting gets going in the spring. No time is a good time for equipment problems, but this spring definitely won’t be good.

Keeping sprayers operational and efficient in the spring planting season is often a reflection of how they are maintained. Investing some time during pre-plant weather can pay big dividends when temperatures warm up and seed go in the ground.

Some tips for keeping planters ready for spring include:

• Coulter care: The first thing to look at on the planter is to be sure the coulters are sharp enough to cut through the soil residue. Make sure the coulters and disks are in-line accurately, otherwise seed placement may be off.

• Disc openers: Worn disc openers and worn rubber seals should be replaced to avoid altering seed populations. Again, the price of seed will be high, so getting seed in the right position and at the right depth is critical. Disc openers should be adjusted together by removing spacers behind the hubs to obtain 1 to 3 inches of disc contact. Most new planter disc openers are 15 inches in diameter with a 0.5-inch bevel. When they wear to less than 14 inches in diameter, they should be replaced.

• Gauge wheel pivots: make sure gauge-wheel pivots are not worn to the point they flex away from disc openers. As gauge-wheel pivots wear, they pull away from the disc openers, which need to make a consistent “V.” Worn pivots will mess with your seed trenches.

• Level planter: Changing tires on the tractor or pulling the planter with a different tractor from the prior year can change the levelness of the planter. Even simple things, like changing the air pressure in tires can affect the level of the planter.