Miller offers ideas to set up planter for no-till use
MARTINSBURG, Pa. — “Seed placement is the most important,” Tony Miller told 30-plus farmers at a recent Penn State soil health and cover crops workshop. The seed must be in contact with the soil for success.
Miller, who farms 350 acres no-till in Indiana County, has refined his practices on setting his planter for no-till for six years.
Moisture, temperature, nodal roots, uneven emergence and possible herbicide damage can all be factors in the soil depth seed placement.
Corn, he explained, may be placed at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches.
Most farmers plant shallow early in the season.
The effects of trash in the seed furrow can delay corn emergence due to the seed contact with debris instead of the soil.
Turning to planter maintenance, Miller discussed parallel arms; double disk openers; seed tube and seed tube guards; closing wheels and frame; depth gauge wheels and arms; and seed meters.
Miller suggested a rocker test to determine if parallel arms are worn. If they can be shaken, he said, “They are worn out and you’re wasting time.”
Seed discs are manufactured at fifteen or 13 1/2 inches.
If a 15-inch disc currently measures 14 1/2 inches, he said, “Get rid of it.”
Mud builts up if seed tubes and seed tube guards are worn. If unworn, the guards help to achieve uniform planting depth.
As a closing wheel wears, “It will not go a good job,” Miller said.
A depth gauge wheel should touch the seed plate. Miller added, “Make sure bushings are in good condition.”
Some farmers, Miller said, blame problems on seed meters, but he pointed out that they can last a long time. Also one can tighten hubs to increase the tolerance. Miller said. “Lots of people do not have the tongue adjusted right.”
Performing well in no-till can be facilitated by well-designed planters.
Smoother operations can be aided by row cleaners, cover crop rollers, coulters, seed firmers and downforce systems.
Row cleaners remove heavy residue. Floating row cleaners work better by not digging too deeply. Pneumatic ones make adjustments easier.
Sharptooth cleaners, Miller said, do not warp as badly. There are several firms that make seed firmers. Miller pointed out the need for seed to be uniform on bottom of the trench to obtain seed to soil contact.
Regarding planter fertilizing, Miller said there are different options, but he warned, “Do not overdo phosphorus.” Surface banding is becoming more popular as it can be cheaper and produce the least disturbance. He noted to never use more than 10 pounds of nitrogen and potassium in the furrow. If higher than 70 pounds per acre, keep fertilizer a minimum of four inches away.
Miller noted that coulters are debatable when considering no-till.
But downforce is important in no-till, according to Miller. Pneumatic, hydraulic or active downforce systems should help with uneven depth situations. However, Miller stressed “Fix and maintain the planter first—then get adjustments.”
Miller reported that auto steer results on less stress on the operator. “It gives you more time to pay attention to the equipment,” he added, explaining that it improves guessing in hard to see conditions.
Automatic section controls, Miller said, increase yield, reduce seed inputs and result in less operator fatigue with more hours in the field.
Data logging enables creating records on planting, spraying and fertilizing. Plus, data to back up manure applications, and comparing new products and tracking varieties is easier.
Miller concluded that farmers should work toward better seed placement. Planter maintenance is important. Also, consider tools to add to no-till planters to improve performance.