Corn Planter: The Train of Consequences

It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece of equipment on deck for most Midwest farmers. We all know margins are tight and it’s easy to call it “good enough” but let’s take a look at what’s at stake.

Once you decide your tillage practice on your farm (no-till, strip till, conventional, etc.) you laid the tracks for the season. What a lot of people don’t realize is your corn planter is the lead engine on your train of consequences.

Farms have personalities. Some are neat and tidy, some are sloppy and fast. Take a look at their corn planter performance and it will tell you what kind of train of consequences is heading down their tracks. Is it a slow moving freight train? Ozzy’s Crazy Train? Maybe a Soul Train? Whatever is chugging along has a huge impact on their bottom line and they have almost complete control of the planter’s performance if they choose.

You can’t plant a 34k stand and expect to harvest 38k. Late emerging plants don’t catch up to produce as well as first day emergers. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and flag your plants. Watch your crop and the first day plants pop out of the ground put a flag next to them. Come back 24 hours later and flag the plants that came up on day 2. Keep going until all of the plants are up on your 100-foot stretch. You’ll be surprised at the results. Just 48 hours has a huge effect on yield.

A sprayer can’t help a plant catch up to its neighbor. A sidedress bar and combine can only work with the plants that are in front of them. They say a bag of seed has a potential of 500 bpa, but once that bag is opened it only goes down. The planter is the best piece of equipment to protect as much yield as possible.

But that doesn’t mean you need to spend a small fortune on gizmos and gadgets for your planter. Have you done an honest evaluation of last year’s stand? If you still have stalks in your fields take a broom out there and sweep away the trash around the standing stalks. Evaluate your spacing and singulation. Don’t worry about the “keyboard experts” that say spacing and singulation don’t matter. Talk to the NCGA yield winners and ask them if they matter to higher yields.

The clichés are true, “Plant in the dust and your bins will bust,” “It’s the most important pass of the season,” “The sins of your planter will haunt you all year,” and on and on.

How do you prepare for #Plant18? Make a top 10 list of things you would like to add to your planter. Next to that list make a corresponding list of ROI for those items. Then it comes down to budget and priority.

Think you need a new planter? Think again. There are a lot of options for you to keep that toolbar and still get the performance you deserve. Save the sticker shock and look at rebuilding.

Whether you own the planter or you are the trusted advisor for the farm I can’t overemphasize the importance of planter performance. Make sure your Train of Consequences takes you to the black side of your farm’s bottom line.

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