Ensuring a good start to the planting season starts with doing the prep work in the downtime between now and spring.
“Checking your planter over and doing the maintenance ahead of time – the prep work – will make the spring startup process that much easier,” said Brad Niensteadt, senior product specialist with Kinze Manufacturing. “When you have done a lot of the maintenance ahead of time, everything will be ready to go as you get into field and are actually applying and putting seed in the dirt.”
While now is a good time to grease machines and replace fittings in the shop, some prep work won’t be able to be completed until farmers are actually in the field.
Niensteadt recommends starting with the basics in the fields, examining the planter from “the hitch to the tail.”
The following are his tips for checking the planter:
• As soon as you pull the planter into the field, drive ahead 20 or 30 feet and stop and get out and check.
“Start at the hitch and make sure that you’re running the hitch level slightly uphill to the tractor,” Niensteadt said. “You never want to run the hitch downhill.”
• Make sure the toolbar is running level by measuring the distance from the ground to the bottom of the toolbar to ensure it is level, as well.
Distances vary depending on the design of the toolbar, but proper hitch and toolbar height are paramount to accurate planting.
For example, the Kinze 3000 series model planters need 20-22 inches of clearance between the bottom of the toolbar and the ground. Model 4000 series need 22-24 inches of toolbar height.
“You might need to make adjustments to either the hitch or where the carrying wheels are mounted to make sure that height is correct,” he said.
• Make sure parallel arms are approximately parallel to the ground when in the planting position.
When the parallel arms run level, farmers get the max travel of the row unit, and it will follow the terrain better. That way, there is a good chance of getting good seed depth and seed to soil contact when going through all the fields.
“Your hitch is level, your frame is level, which hopefully in turn make sure your parallel arms are running level for your row unit, as well,” Niensteadt said.
• All the adjustments are even more important when planning to plant at a higher speeds.
“Higher-speed planting is a big trend right now, and all of these adjustments become even more critical because you are covering ground that much faster,” he said.
Higher speed can mean different things to different farmers.
“Everybody kind of thinks high-speed planting is driving 10 miles per hour all the time, but that is not true,” Niensteadt said. “If you were consistently a 5 mile per hour traveler, high speed to you might just be a 6-7 mile per hour travel speed.”
After that, make sure you adjust the settings and the attachment settings on the row unit itself.
• Check for proper depth in your tillage attachments and make sure that all the row units are set the same.
The depth should be consistent all the way across, including depth adjustment and down pressure settings.
“Automatic hydraulic downforce control has really helped eliminate some of those checks and balances from a mechanical downforce setup,” he said.
It also gives farmers a little more input feedback to what is really going on in the row unit.
“I always tell guys, no matter how advanced the planter is, getting off and checking on the ground behind the planter and knowing truly what is going on is really still key,” he said. “Getting out in the dirt by far supersedes any sort of attachment or electronic piece that you have on the planter.”
• Go back behind the planter and make sure the closing wheels are centered over the seed trench.
This can be verified in the field at the same time as you are setting the down pressure.
The final piece in the process from depth to closing that seed trench over the seed is making sure that it is doing its job correctly.
“It is always good to check it, not only during your first couple passes or your first pass in the field, but for multiple passes throughout the field,” Niensteadt said.
Obviously, ground conditions change as farmers drive down the field.
“Conditions change as you’re going through the field and from field to field, so how you set it in one field might, of course, be different than the field across the street,” he said. “There are many different options out there to utilize, so make sure what you’re using is performing where and how you want it to in the field.”
• Check the row unit attachments that you are using, as well, and make sure the row cleaners up front are performing well.
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• Preparation before planter adjustments is as important as the adjustments themselves.
A leaf blower can be a helpful tool. After they have made a pass with their tillage tool, several of Niensteadt’s customers take a leaf blower and blow that light soil off the top. That way, farmers can see where the depth of their tillage piece is and see what it looks like underneath.
They can get a true picture of what those roots are going to be going into.
“That way you can tell how deep you are actually going and find out if you need to make adjustments as far as depth, speed, angle of tillage or other factors,” he said.
Technology has brought various types of tillage tools from minimum and vertical tillage to the hybrid tillage like Kinze’s Mach Till, and other high-speed disks out on the market.
“It’s more critical to know what is going on in the soil angles, speed, and depth. It all plays a factor in how that ground reacts and how the soil reacts to making proper adjustments,” he said.
It is vital to take the time to dig in the dirt and make sure the soil and the depth is how you want it to prevent any tillage mistakes after you are done planting and the crop is coming up.
“Planting is the most important part of the season, and you only get one chance to do it,” Niensteadt said. “It is not just about high-speed planting, but consistency at any speed.”
Kinze has introduced and added True Speed to its high-speed metering system, even on its small frame planter, the Kinze 3505.
The planter’s True Speed accurately plants at speedsfrom 3-12 miles per hour and plants up to twice the number of acres in a day versus a conventional meter.
“You can get the precision, accuracy, and automatic hydraulic downforce control, along with all high-end features on anything from our 36-row machines down to our 8-row machines,” he said.
Farmers who want accurate planting, seed spacing, and depth control on a lower hydraulic or lower horsepower machines can now have that.
“We are the only ones to offer it – a factory-installed electric drive, high speed 8-row machine,” Niensteadt said. “By adding it into the lineup, we really hit as big of a demographic as we can. A lot of guys in that size really want that precision and consistency, just because they know that provides a yield increase and helps take some of the variability out of planting.”
The technology in the 3505 provides feedback and lets farmers know what is going on in the field as they drive through the field.
“You are more efficient because you can drive a little bit faster, cover more ground, and not lose any of that consistency going through the field,” Niensteadt said.
Transporting the 3505 planter is easy from field to field.
“It is a lift and pivot machine, so you get the benefit of ease of transport down narrow roads as you go from one field to another,” he said.
Kinze also offers a low hydraulic requirement on the planter. To help reduce hydraulic requirements, they have installed standard equipment and a planter-mounted PTO pump.
“Farmers can use an older tractor, any tractor built in the last 30 years, and still have a high-tech planter,” he said.
Farmers may question if they have enough hydraulics with all the features on the planter, from vacuum fans to bulk fill fans and hydraulic downforce.
“We’re trying to eliminate the worry of the tractor and focus on what features you need on the planter to do a good job,” Niensteadt said.
Kinze also offers a kit for a high-tech entrainer and their new entrainer is also on the 3505 planter.
“The entrainer is at the bottom of our bulk fill tanks and that’s really where the air and seed meet together, and then the seed is delivered to the rows,” he said.
Kinze made changes in the entrainer when they introduced their 05 series planters.
The entrainer was designed to be more efficient and more streamlined to allow a higher flow of seed because with high-speed planting, more seed is needed in the row.
“We’ve given it the capability to supply more seed to the row with less air pressure, which means there’s less hydraulic requirement,” he said. “With that, we have also added the ability to plant more crops with it.”
On the split-row planters, such as the 3505, farmers can now plant different crops with different seed size including corn, soybeans, sweet corn, sunflowers, milo/sorghum, edible beans, sugarbeets and wheat.
“We have a fair amount of wheat customers who plant wheat in 15-inch rows. Of course, there are sunflowers – there are a fair amount in the Dakotas – and now you can plant large sunflowers, which we didn’t have the ability to do before,” Niensteadt said. “Then it supports sugarbeets as you get up the Red River Valley and those type of areas. The entrainer supports all those types of crops.”
One of the best parts of the entrainer is it is retrofittable. If famers have an older machine, they can purchase a kit and install the new entrainer and get the same benefits as a new planter, as well.
In conclusion, Niensteadt points out that no matter what the technology is and how advanced the planter is, it still doesn’t discount the need to get out and verify function in the ground.
“You want to know ahead of time before the corn comes up, so take that extra time to get out of the seat and verify that the monitor is telling you the truth and that it really is doing the job you want it to do. Then you can feel confident once you make that pass that you’re doing the best job you can. Don’t solely rely on the monitor itself. That is what we call doing a ground check or a ground truth.”
For more on Kinze planters, including the 3505, see www.kinze.com.