How to prep a no-till planter

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no-till planter

It is almost time to put seed in the ground. Whether you have been no-till planting for years or trying it for the first time, here are some things to check before the planter leaves the shop.

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1Meters
No-till planting meters should be tested every 1 or 2 years or every 300 to 400 acres. Change belts and brushes every 3 to 4 years.

2Planter hitch position
If the hitch is too low and tipping unevenly front to back, it causes the seed tube to angle forward and could result in seed flying out the seed tube instead of gently dropping into the furrow. The hitch should be set so the planter’s toolbar is level to even slightly higher front to back. This ensures proper seed drop and accurate seed placement into the furrow.

3Depth of coulters
No-till coulters should be 1/4 inch shallower than the disc opening. A good test is to set the planter disc openers on a board; the coulters should spin freely.

4Disc openers
Disc openers should be measured; if the opening is 1/2 inch or smaller, they should be replaced. Disc openers that are worn can cause a “W” instead of a clean “V” trench. Business cards can be used to check adequate spacing, one from the top of the blade and one from the bottom of the blade.

The space between the blades should be 1 3/4 inches for 3.5 mm blades and 2 1/2 to 3 inches for 3.0 mm blades. Worn or incorrect settings can cause uneven seed depth.

5Seed tubes
No-till seed tubes should not have any play left to right. Tubes should be replaced annually, and even new seed tubes should be checked to make sure they are smooth inside. Any irregularities from the molded plastic should be filed down to prevent seed ricocheting in various directions as it leaves the tube. Check to make sure the bottom isn’t frazzled or broken and that the hook, which is halfway up the tube, is not broken.

6Chains
Chains should be snug. Check spring tension. With planter raised completely, chain should be as short as possible. Spring should not be stretched out. Check all chain idlers and bushings. Replace if worn. Oil all chains and grease zerks.

Next week: Check back next week for more no-till planting prep tips.

Source: Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, No-Till Tips, A quick reference guide for the no-till farmer.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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