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Read before going to the field!

Remember the camera commercials at Christmas that show packages with the tag “Open me first”? The tag on this story could be “Read me before you plant.”

Adjusting starter fertilizer openers correctly is the place to start when setting the planter, says Barry Fisher, state agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. If both fertilizer discs aren’t spaced the right distance apart at the correct angle, you can kick up wet soil that winds up on gauge wheels, Fisher says. He sees it often with notched-blade openers.

Rubber gauge wheels that are narrower inside appeal to Fisher. They were once called Case IH gauge wheels, but most people refer to them as “reduced inside diameter” gauge wheels.

“You don’t get as much pressure right over the row,” Fisher says. “The whole idea is to reduce soil compaction.”

Key Points

• Don’t let starter fertilizer openers “throw mud.”

• Reduce the up and down action of the planter units.

• Consider row cleaners with tredder wheels to handle residue.

Control down pressure on units

“Planter units should pass the champagne test,” Fisher says. “If units are adjusted correctly, you can cross the field with a glass of champagne on each planter box lid without tipping it or spilling a drop.”

Make sure there’s enough pressure on units but not too much, he advises. Air Force is a commercial system from Precision Planting that allows automatic control of the pressure on row units. The idea is to avoid situations where too much down force produces sidewall soil compaction.

Run row cleaners correctly

You can buy row cleaners with tredder wheels. “The idea is to prevent wrapping and help residue flow,” Fisher says. That could be especially useful this year since there’s lots of residue.

John Larkin, Precision Planting, says the company offers extra-wide tredder wheels on Martin row cleaners, plus a small air unit that fits on each pair of row cleaners to control pressure.

“Don’t let tredder wheels be depth bands,” Fisher advises. “If so, units will go deeper than necessary.”

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WIDE DESIGN: Precision Planting introduces wide tredder wheels (center) and an air-control cylinder on row cleaners for 2010.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.