Simply Smart: 8 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Planter

With a seemingly endless number of planter options available today, it is easy to lose sight of which features are really important to your bottom line. Here, we explore the most relevant features you should look at when comparing options for a new planter purchase.

To be profitable, your new planter must increase planting accuracy, reduce maintenance costs, and be more accurate than the planter it replaced.  Let’s take a closer look at some key features to keep in mind when shopping around for “the perfect planter.”

1. Monitor setup is simple, accurate, and easy to use.

To ensure accuracy, your planter’s monitor should utilize the same state-of-the-art seed tube sensors and seed counting technology as more complicated monitor options without confusing you with endless menus, specialty options, and other rarely-used bells and whistles.

While it is important for the seed sensor and row hardware to maintain a level of sophistication, look for a simplified monitor platform with an easy, “one-touch” approach for setting monitor parameters like row width, row spacing, and number of rows. Avoid monitors with too many other settings, as these can over-complicate functionality and cause problems. Your box screen should also clearly display key operational stats, such as population, miles per hour, acres, and row monitoring.

2. Seed hoppers offer flexible capacity.

Do not overlook seed hopper design when shopping for the perfect planter. Flexibility is key when it comes to hopper selection; therefore, the “perfect” hopper will offer enough capacity to meet your various seeding needs. The industry-standard 1.6 bu. may suffice, but consider the added value offered by a larger-capacity 3 bu. hopper. Your planter’s hoppers should also be equipped to protect seed from the wind and rain. They should feature rain-tight, hinged hopper lids, as well as a positive latch that will keep the lid secure during storms or transit.

3. Seed disc offers versatility and easy maintenance.

At the heart of the planter, your meter singulates the crop and optimizes planter performance. Your seed discs need to be easy to clean with minimal maintenance while delivering peak performance. The perfect seed discs should also be easy to release and replace within minutes, with no hassle or time wasted so you can hit the field and get to work.

Because the meter determines the functionality of the planter, the planter you select should be able to plant a wide variety of seed types to meet your current seeding needs, as well as give you options for the future. Be sure your planter offers a line of discs to singulate all major crops, including corn, soybeans, milo, cotton, and cereal grains, as well as crops like pelletized sugar beets. Additionally, consider how your needs match the planter’s ability to truly singulate seeds like canola, edible beans, and peanuts. Essentially, options enable your planter to serve as multiple planters in one machine.

Like the hopper, the meter should protect seed from the elements. Meters should have a removable rain cover to protect seed from rain and wind. If you prefer full visibility of the seed disc and seed pool during planting, you should be able to simply remove the meter cover and plant normally.

4. Metering system is simple and accurate.

Your planter’s metering system should be robust, as well as designed for easy maintenance and, most importantly, accurate seed placement. The perfect planter meter has very few moving parts and its brushes are easy to remove and replace. When selecting a planter, consider the distinct advantages a positive air flow meter has over vacuum-style meters.

Vacuum meters rely on suction and a perfect meter seal to hold seed in individual cells. Vacuum systems can also create more drag on drive components and increase wear on meter wheels. Any imperfection in the meter would cause a serious threat to seed singulation. Seed shape and size determine how well the individual kernels are seated in the seed disc, and the seed is released only when vacuum suction is removed. Inconsistent seed release results in seed tube ricochet, which will un-do the singulation and spacing consistency provided by the meter.

In contrast, a positive pressure meter uses air pressure to load individual kernels into the seed disc. As the meter turns, brushes remove any doubles. The singulated seed is held in place by enhanced, anti-static brushes. Then, at the release point, gravity gently drops the seed. This ensures every seed predictably slides down the front of the seed tube, eliminating seed ricochet and damage to in-row seed spacing.

As an added bonus, some positive air flow systems discharge planter exhaust directly towards, and in close proximity to, the ground, making them compliant with many pollinator protection regulations.

5. Seed tube accurately meters variety of seed.

Seed tube design also impacts accuracy, depending on the seeds you plant. The perfect planter’s seed tubes should be designed to eliminate seams and distortion that cause the seed to bounce around in the seed tube, which negatively affects seed spacing. The seed tube should not have any molded clips or sensor holes in the front of the tube, as these will disrupt the seed as it slides down the tube. Seed tubes should be made of optical red material to allow sensors to accurately count seed as small as canola and milo. It is also important to consider planting speed. Today’s higher planting speeds require seed tubes with a curvature for a dead drop at rates of up to 5.5 m.p.h. In short, the planter seed tube must preserve the spacing the meter gave it, all the way to the bottom of the seed trench.

6. Side depth wheels offer adjustment options.

Be sure to pay attention to side depth gauge wheel adjustment features. While many planters offer only lateral adjustment to the side depth wheel, consider a planter that offers both lateral and angular adjustments. Side depth wheels should be laterally adjustable, moving the wheel inward to maintain proper contact with the disc blade. As the arm pivot wears, an angle adjustment needs to be added to compensate, allowing you to keep the gauge wheel against the disc blade at the soil surface. Angular adjustment of the gauge wheel arm helps to prevent plugging in wet conditions and keeps you planting in conditions where some other planters would have to stop.

7. Ground drive is positive, simple, and effective.

Keep your perfect planter simple and effective with a ground-driven metering system that incorporates a steel wheel with teeth. With a positive ground-drive system, you do not have to worry about ground drive tires going flat or slipping caused by wet tires riding on top of other wet tires, even on dewy mornings or in tough no-till conditions. The wheel’s teeth must keep the metering system rolling to deliver consistent, positive rotation to the seed discs. 

8. Seeding rates are easy to change.

The simplest way to adjust seeding rates is with a sprocket-to-sprocket system. These don’t require any tools! Simply depress and derail the chain, change sprockets, replace the chain on the sprocket, and you’re done. Again, a simple system to keep you moving.

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