As the intense hours of planting season start to wind down, farmers look ahead to the next jobs to be done, including spraying. The planter may not be at the top of the to-do list now, but it still needs attention to make life easier next spring.
Dave Rylander, a western Illinois farmer, is often the guy who gets calls before, after or during planting season if people have a problem. Not only does he farm in Knox County south of Galesburg, but he also worked for John Deere for almost 40 years. He grows corn and soybeans with his son Doug, who worked for Case IH, and they have a Precision Planting dealership at Oneida, Illinois.
So, they know a thing or two about planters.
Rylander’s No. 1 piece of advice at the end of planting season is “Write down what’s not working correctly.”
“You won’t remember it when winter comes,” he said.
Bryce Baker, marketing manager of Precision Planting, encourages farmers to remember the “ups” when putting away the planter for the season — back up data, clean up equipment and follow up on any repairs or adjustments the planter needs.
Data may sometimes be forgotten as part of planter care because it is easy to focus on the mechanical side of things, says Brad Niensteadt, senior product specialist for Kinze Manufacturing.
Get the data off the display soon so it is not lost. He also recommends getting it directly into the software you will use and/or to your agronomist.
As for cleanup, Baker focuses on the seed meter and delivery mechanisms. Blow out the dust. Remove the discs and store them out of the planter. Wash any fertilizer splash off the planter.
Niensteadt says get rid of any seeds or product moisture.
“We want to keep any furry friends from creating damage,” he says.
And fertilizer can be “brutal” on components.
“Make sure the tank is clean — treat it like a sprayer,” says Niensteadt, who farms with his parents in north central Iowa.
Cleanup is a time to look at the wear and what needs to be replaced, Rylander says. He usually uses air for fine cleaning.
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“One of the musts before parking the planter in the shed is to put the service lock on. It’s a safety thing,” Rylander says.
If there were a hydraulic leak, for example, the equipment could roll over. He has seen examples of that with damage to both the shed and the equipment.
During cleanup, he recommends removing the seed discs so they don’t warp. You can store them on a supported broom handle, just not on a table where the disc might rest on its edges, he says.
As part of evaluating the planter’s performance this year, some footwork is required. Baker goes into the field to look at emergence and singulation consistency, checking the seeds in the soil.
“It’s not just population. It’s consistency,” he says.
If there are errors, find out why and how to improve them and follow up with repairs. For example, for a late-emerging seed, investigate to see if the trench closed or if the residue was not cleared enough for the seed to emerge well.
Take action on the improvements needed so next year, you aren’t saying, “What was that I was thinking?”
In doing the post-planting evaluation, look for any broken, damaged or worn-out components, Niensteadt says.
“A lot of guys do a walk around like at the beginning of the season,” he says.
He suggests if you can’t fix the issues right then, “make a list immediately so you don’t forget.” Address things as time allows and add the bigger jobs to winter projects, Niensteadt says.
The Kinze product specialist has another handy tip. Make a list of parts you will need and take advantage of any parts programs or sales as they pop up in the fall or winter.
“Save money and take advantage of deals,” he said.
Purchasing parts early might also be wise during supply chain slowdowns.
Rylander says he has different lists for different seasons. He goes through one list when he puts the equipment in the shed after use, another in the winter, and another as he prepares for spring.
Planter manufacturers have books that provide good information about cleanup, storage and planter prep, says Rylander. He says the equipment companies also have videos with helpful tips for storage and maintenance. Since modern planters are complex, Rylander recommends using resource information from dealers and manufacturers to make planting a good experience every year.