Corn School: Setting Your Planter for Optimal Results in the Field

80 percent of planter setup should be done before the unit leaves the yard. That’s the work that can be completed before the weather and soil are ready for putting seed in the ground.

But not everything can be calibrated before heading out to the field.

In this Corn School episode, Shaun Dilliott of Kearney Planters joins us again to discuss the final 20 percent of planter setup: levelling the planter, and adjusting for proper down pressure, seed depth and row closure.

Watch a previous Corn School with Shaun Dilliott: Time to Prep Your Planter

While it’s tempting and common to check depth right away, in-field setup should begin at the front of the planter.

“The very first thing we want to check is the level of the planter,” he explains, “because that adjustment affects every other adjustment you’re going to make after that.”

The row unit should be parallel to the ground so the seed tube is angled in the proper position for uniform seed placement.

From there, down pressure on each row should be adjusted.

“If you don’t have enough down pressure you will not get the proper seed depth because you won’t have any weight on your gauge wheels,” he notes.

“In a perfect world, you should be able to just slightly turn that (gauge) wheel when the planter is in the down position in the field.”

After setting down pressure, that’s when it’s time to adjust seed depth using the lever on each row. Dilliott suggests also checking population at this time. Lifting one row to a 1/4 inch depth and chaining up the tail stock can make finding the seed easier.

Finally, check the down pressure on the closing wheels.

“If you cannot dig the seed up with your finger, you’ve probably got too much down pressure on your closing wheels,” he says.

Dilliott’s tips for planter set-up in the field:

  • Start at the front of the planter, levelling the row unit (not the tongue).
  • Don’t go to the field full of seed. Level the planter and adjust down force with tank(s) 1/4 full. “If you have it full, anybody can set it up. You have enough weight to hold everything down. We want it 1/4 full to check if we have enough down pressure and everything else.”
  • Adjust down pressure next. You should be able to slightly turn the gauge wheel when in the down position.
  • Then adjust seed depth and check population.
  • On a 30′ row, 1/1000th of an acre = 17’5″ of one row. Shallow up one row and chain the closing wheel up to make finding seed easier.
  •  Lastly, check down pressure on the closing wheels. You should be able to dig the seed up with your finger, with exception in some clay soils. A screwdriver is not helpful in determining if you have too much down pressure.

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