Make Purposeful Planter Changes This Spring

CORN ILLUSTRATED: You can make changes to your planter trying to help seed placement, but be sure you don't make things worse.

Published on: Feb 25, 2014

Today it's common for someone, especially someone farming in no-till or reduced tillage, to buy a new planter and then spend hours – if not days – adding various attachments to the base planter to help it function more efficiently on your soils.

The goal is always to achieve uniformly spaced plants within the row, and perhaps more importantly, seeds placed at uniform depths so that emergence occurs within a 24 to 48 hour window after you see the first corn spike in a field emerge.

Bill Lehmkuhl can spend two and a half hours just talking about nitty-gritty details of setting planters correctly if you have the time. If not, he'll give you the sort version. Recently Lehmkuhl, a farmer and owner of Precision Agri Services, Minster, Ohio, talked to Midwest farmers about the importance of planter maintenance and pre-season preparation.

Popular gauge wheel: The smaller interior diameter of Case IH gauge wheels has appeal to farmers who want to avoid sidewall compaction of soil in moist conditions. However, when used on non-Case IH planters, it can result in loose soil adding extra cover over seeds.
Popular gauge wheel: The smaller interior diameter of Case IH gauge wheels has appeal to farmers who want to avoid sidewall compaction of soil in moist conditions. However, when used on non-Case IH planters, it can result in loose soil adding extra cover over seeds.

Understand attachments' purpose
When you start adding attachments, you need to understand exactly what the attachments are doing, he says. Make sure they accomplish what you want to accomplish, without unintended consequences that could actually make things worse.

Here's an example. Case IH runs gauge wheels with a smaller interior diameter. It's the part of the wheel that fits near the gauge wheel. It typically results in less sidewall soil compaction of the seed trench that gauge wheels that are the same diameter all the way in to the closing discs. Many farmers over the years have removed gauge wheels from other brands of planters and installed the Case IH gauge wheels to help limit the possibly of sidewall soil compaction.

The problem, Lehmkuhl says, is that the Case IH gauge wheel is part of a system on a Case IH planter. There are other parts that firm the soil properly. Many times you can run the wheels from the red planter successfully on other planters, However, in certain conditions the smaller interior diameter means loose soil can fall back into the seed trench if it is not firmed by a full-width gauge wheel. It can result in seeds at varying distances from the surface, which isn't conducive to even plant emergence across the field.

Other companies now make similar gauge wheels as options. Just be sure that if you're using one of these wheels, dirt falling back into the seed trench isn't putting the seed deeper below the soil surface than you intended, Lehmkuhl concludes.