How to get the best results from a planter

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BY GILBERT KIRUI

Choice and correct use of a planter are key elements in achieving the right plant population and consequently a good crop. If you are buying a planter it is important to consider the size of your farm.  The initial purchase price is a priority, but you also need to consider your expenditure over the next few years on spares, servicing and repairs.  Like all machinery, after the purchase, the after sales support and availability of the spare parts a key consideration to make.

The output of your planter should be sufficient for you to take full advantage of the planting window in your area, which is dependent on the size of land and the likely duration of rainy seasons.

When selecting the planter also consider other operations that will be carried out on the farm and to the crop before harvest, for instance irrigation and pest control equipment movement into your fields.

The farmer must also decide if his farm will be running on controlled traffic or not.  This will in many ways affect how the operations are carried out and demarcation of traffic and non-traffic areas.

By setting the planter spacing correctly, tasks such as crop spraying can be carried out with the minimum damage to crops.

Taking care of a planter

Bearing in mind that a planter represents a significant investment, it is important that you take great care of your equipment. If possible, store your planter under a roof.  When not in use, remove the rubber hoses, grease and cover the chains.  The life of all equipment is extended by correct lubrication and planters are no exception.

Accordingly, you should make sure that you lubricate all chains and bearings thoroughly. Rust preventive paint should be applied to the clean disc opener and coulters. Plastic hoppers should not be left in the sun for long periods as they deteriorate fast.

Tasks to be carried out immediately before planting

Checking the condition of your equipment on a regular basis and replacing all worn out parts will ensure that your planter will be reliable, and you will not suffer problems caused by break downs.

  • The adjustment of disc openers or replacement of those worn out ensures that the furrow will give you accurate seed positioning and firming. Remember worn openers will create a W shaped furrow instead of the V shape, which you require for best results.
  • Another cause of reduced seeding accuracy is the inefficient operation of planter chains that are worn, or have rusty and are stiff chain links.  This is cured by wire brushing and greasing the chains.  To prevent the problem occurring ensure correct lubrication at the end of the planting season and keeping the chains covered away from dust and debris.
  • Ensure that coulters and disc openers are correctly aligned to give accurate furrow opening and seed placement.
  • Make sure that the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure because under, or over inflated tyres influence the accuracy of transmission settings for the seed drop.
  • Seed tubes and monitor sensors should be cleaned to avoid interference with the accuracy of the sensors.
  • With finger pick- up type planters the back plates should be clear of rust build up and seed treatment residues. Tension on the fingers should be checked and adjusted because badly adjusted finger pressure affects the ability of the unit to accurately cingulate seeds.

Writer is technical manager, FMD East Africa