The first day of planting is an exciting time. It means winter has finally (aka hopefully) given way to spring on the farm. Lots of planning and preparation goes into being ready for the first day. In the past I’ve written about how we know when it is time to start planting. Not every year is a perfect start. This year we bent the rules a bit so we could get started.
So far spring has been very cool. Soils have not warmed up very much with more cloudy days than sunny. But last week things shaped up enough we thought we ought to go ahead and put some seed in the ground even though we knew rain was coming the next day with cool days and nights were to follow. So why get started at all if conditions weren’t going to be the best? And not just start, but start on a Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. That is almost like asking for trouble.
If you have read my post Precision Decision you will know we threw a lot of hardware, wiring, and technology at our planter this winter. With conditions being right on Friday for soil moisture Dad and I decided to roll out the planter just to make sure everything was in working order. My thinking was if we didn’t do this and there were issues the imminent rainfall would keep us out of the field for several more days. With May approaching fast we wouldn’t want to be messing around with first day bugs when the whole farm is fit to plant. We get one shot to plant our crop so when it is time to roll we had better be ready. So with a tractor that has never been on the planter before, and a boat load of new tech on the planter we though it best to get any hiccups out-of-the-way on what might be the one good day to be messing around without much consequence.
How Did it Go?
The first day out went pretty well. A slow start, but no major issues. Last year we went out on the first day to “practice” and before we knew it we had planted all but one corn field by day three. You can’t count on that luck every time! Right away I could tell by my planter monitor in the cab I had an issue with Row 10. It would not plant the right population, and then it quit planting altogether. Dad and I took the hopper off that row and looked it over. We pulled the lid off the seed meter along with the seed plate. Couldn’t find much wrong except maybe the meter turned a little bit too hard by hand. We made an adjustment for that and moved on. 10 kept planting but would only lay down 26,000-28,000 seeds per acre. We were shooting for a field average just over 32,000. We let that ride for a bit while we checked other things like seeding depth and spacing and adjusting the timing on the automatic row shutoffs. That timing needed tweaked because it is based on GPS and dimensions of the equipment. With a new tractor on the planter our dimensions changed some from years past.
So with tons of sensors on the planter and all that new gear we’ve never used before one wonders what is causing Row 10 to behave badly? Is it planting right, but maybe we have a bad seed sensor in the seed tube? No, because we did a seed count on the ground and it matched the number the monitor was spitting out. Dirt in the seed tube or a piece of paper from a seed bag? Nope. After about three hours of messing around I knew it had to be one simple thing we just were not seeing. That is how these things go much of the time. One thing eludes you. Then we found it.
The rubber seal on the lid for seed meter was not perfectly in place. I just happened to notice it when we went to swap seed hoppers on 10 and 8 to see if the issue followed the hopper to the other row. Dad and I had both been thinking the sound of the air pulling vacuum on 10 did not sound right. Well that seal was the problem. Planter ran great after that, and I was done being really annoyed in the cab since the monitors ceased screeching at me constantly to let me know 10 was being bad.
A bit of a frustrating start, but at least it was a simple fix. I wish we would have spotted the simple solution right off the bat, but it was a relief knowing the $32,000 of tech you tossed on a perfectly good planter didn’t create an issue. Nothing was broken and none of the expensive technology was misbehaving. No bad wiring harnesses, corrupted files, or anything like that. Now we really are ready to roll 100% when the time comes. 85 acres down, about 2000 more to go.