By Connor Lynch
VERNON — Getting to a good harvest includes an assembly line of processes, from picking a hybrid to a decision on when to plant and when you harvest. Part of that process is setting up your planter, a necessary job that Pioneer Planting agronomist Shawn Livingston thinks deserves more time and attention.
Speaking with growers at the Precision Planting day at Vernon, south of urban Ottawa, last month, Livingston stressed the impact of having the planter set up right and ready to go. “You can spend $100,000 on precision tech: If your planter maintenance isn’t up to date, you wasted $100,000,” he said.
Prep for the spring starts in the fall: Try and avoid wet spots in the field as harvest rolls on, or create a tillage plan to manage compaction. If tillage is in the cards, a good rule of thumb is to check your wheel slip: If it’s at 20 per cent or over, get out of the field. Once harvest is behind you, it’s the best time to look at your fertility plans for next year.
But summer is best to evaluate how your planter is doing. Walk the fields, check your corn stands (ideally, flag them, so you know what’s late and what didn’t emerge at all), and use that to evaluate how your planter is performing. That also makes it easier if there’s reason to think parts need repairs or replacement, he said. “It’s fresh in your memory.”
Come spring, Livingston said he’ll spend a good three hours with a standard, 12-row planter. Here are a few of the main things he’ll look at: Bar height. Typically you want it between 21 inches and 26 inches (it differs by manufacturer) from the bottom of the bar to the ground. You also want it level. Livingston will put magnetic levels on it and walk alongside to check it.
He’ll also do a thorough row check. He recommends farmers get a seed firmer, which eliminates the gap between the bottom of the seed and the soil. A $30 firmer is worth 2.5 bushels/acre, he said. Once he’s sure the firmer is working well, he checks the sidewall, leaving the closing wheels on his planter tied up so it stays open. Once he’s happy with that, he does another pass, this time to check that the closing wheels are closing from the bottom up, with minimal sign of the trench re-opening.
Patience is key in the spring, Livingston said, putting it like this: The goal isn’t to be in the coffee shop in the spring, saying you planted more than the other guy. It’s about being in the coffee shop in December, saying you made more money. “If we take care of the soil, the soil takes care of the seed, the seed takes care of us. The more time that we can take to ensure that the seed environment is as perfect as possible, we are setting ourselves up to capture highest yield potential possible.”
Start preparing now for spring planting, agronomist says
By Connor Lynch