Planter Adjustment key to Maximizing Plant Stands

Clint Thompson Corn, Cotton, Field Crops, Peanuts, Soybeans

File photo shows a tractor moving through a field while planting corn.

By Clint Thompson

As farmers begin planting crops this spring, planter adjustment is a key strategy that they need to utilize to maximize plant stands. Planting errors that are attributed to improper setup and maintenance can lead to costly emergence penalties that will significantly impact yield, according to Simer Virk, University of Georgia research engineer.

He said UGA research has shown emergence reductions as high as 50% to 60% in some fields due to improper depth and/or downforce management. In a 2019 cotton study where different irrigation amounts were applied before planting to simulate various conditions, the seeds that were planted at a half/inch seeding depth in drier conditions with zero irrigation, some plots had only 20% to 30% emergence. Seeds that sat on the ground were burnt by excessive heat.

 Virk also noted that research suggests growers need to optimize planter settings based on field conditions. In a field with light sandy soil versus a clay or heavy soil, farmers may not be able to get the same planter performance in the second field as the first one.

Another factor to consider is when transitioning from one crop to another. Growers generally plant various crops from March to June. Once they begin planting, and especially if weather allows, the producers move from planting corn to planting cotton or peanuts. But modifications need to be made first.

“For corn as an example, we’re planting at two inches, or an inch and a half seeding depth and it also needs a little bit higher downforce than when we’re planting cotton, where it’s a half to one-inch seeding depth and you’re also on the low side of the downforce,” Virk said. “If the grower does not change that, he could have pretty significance emergence penalty if he does not go over the planter settings, especially when he changes crops from corn to cotton or peanuts.” (3:50)

If farmers make adjustments beforehand, they won’t spend extra time and money replanting the crop. That’s the message Virk is trying to convey to farmers with planting season under way.

“We have some growers that are very careful and pro-active about all their planter settings. They make sure before they get started to check everything on the planter; if there are parts or anything that need to be replaced,” Virk said. “But we also have some growers that either have not done the required maintenance on the planter or maybe sometimes just missed looking over some parts that either needed to be tuned in or replaced before starting. Some of these settings can have a pretty significant penalty associated if they’re not set right or if they’re not properly tuned in before going in the field.” (6:28)

Virk also emphasized that growers who follow the suggested planter setup and maintenance checklist, they should also consult the operator’s manual on recommended settings for different planter components. If farmers use technology, such as GPS, seed monitor or active hydraulic systems, on the planter, they need to follow the recommended best practices for technology setup and utilization during planting.

For more information, see planter setup.

About the Author

Clint Thompson

Multimedia Journalist for AgNet Media Inc.