If you believe ag climatologists – and depending upon which one you believe – the drought shouldn't return in the Eastern Corn Belt this year. It may even be ending in the Western Corn Belt, but there is a difference of opinion on that. Some areas remain dry and still need moisture.
That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that instead of drought, this could be a stormy spring across most of the Corn Belt, with above normal rainfall, especially in the Eastern Corn Belt. That means that finding days to plant corn may be far more difficult than a year ago. In 2012, corn was already in the ground by now. As it turns out, that wasn't necessarily a good thing, but no one can peer into the future to know what lies ahead.
If there won't be many working days, having your planter ready to roll is even more crucial. When we visited the Jeff and Kent Need farm in Clinton County, Indiana, recently, the shop was occupied with the corn planter. They were replacing worn disks and other parts and getting it ready to go. It's a no-till planter with Martin row cleaners upfront, and spike closing wheels and a drag chain behind. Their primary planting method is no-till.
They have a vacuum planter. No matter which one you have, you need to make sure each row unit is working properly. If you haven't invested in running meters on a test stand, consider doing so. If you have a vacuum planter, run the different grades of seed you'll plant through the meters on the stand so you'll know where to set the adjustments when planting that hybrid, or even that lot of corn.
If you've got electronic equipment that allows you to change rate on-the-go or if you have automatic row shut-off to save seed and avoid overplanting, make sure those systems appear to be working properly.
This will likely be one spring when you want to go to the field and plant corn, not finish making repairs and adjustments in the shop or in the barn lot that could have been made before the season started. Howard Doster, a former Purdue University Extension ag economist, calculated an hour of time in planting season as worth several hundred dollars, and that was many years ago. Once the weather is clean and you're in the desired planting window that suits you, don't let the planter be what holds you back.