Monday, April 29, 2013

Time of the Season: Planter Setup

Finally! Mother Nature was cooperating over the weekend. Every farmer in our area has been anxious to get in the field. We are week or two behind in planting progress.

Let me take you through a little bit of the process of getting the planter ready to go. No, we don't just hook it up and take off!

The starter fertilizer, 10-34-0, has already been loaded in the tanks. There's one in the front of the tractor, and one directly in front of the seed tanks on the planter. 10-34-0 stands for 10 parts nitrogen, 34 parts phosphorus, and 0 parts potassium.

Starter helps the plant get necessary nutrients while it is young and the root development has not progressed enough to reach other fertilizer nutrients that were already applied earlier this spring or last fall after harvest.
Monitors are used to check the functionality and flow of fertilizer and seed through each unit in the planter.  On a 24 row planter, monitors are key.

Let's look at the units on the planter.  Each unit has seed distributed to it from a central tank.  Hence, the CCS in a CCS Planter stands for Central Commodity System.  This saves time over loading seed into each row's individual unit.  Planters have different setups depending on field conditions. We operate a no-till system, where the residue of last year's crop acts as a mulch.
Looking right to left, the spiky wheel at the front of the unit is a trash ripper.  Trash rippers move old crop residue, creating a narrow seed bed.  Next, you can see part of a narrow silver opener behind the wider black gauge wheels.  Openers open up the soil so seed can be placed in the ground.  After the seed is planted, press wheels that angle downward move soil back over the seed. 
Because only a narrow seed bed is needed, the rest of the field is undisturbed, conserving water. On windy days, it's rare to see soil blowing off of a no-till field. It can happen, however, but usually it would be on a field planted to soybeans in the prior year, as soybean residue is less substansive than corn stalks or wheat stubble.
Seed is stored in large boxes.  Two can be loaded onto a seed tender wagon side by side using a forklift.  We are extra careful with the forklift.  The kids are not allowed to be anywhere near it when it is in operation. 

I thought I would help back the pickup back to the trailer as a joke.  We all know that this Real Farmwife does not possess the BUTT gene.  (That stands for Backing Up The Trailer.  What else?)  Mr. Corn Farmer took me up on the dare.  He's a brave man.  Right here he's using FSL.  (Farmer Sign Language.)  I have three inches to go.  Pretty impressive, right? 

Not so much.  While a farmer can back up anything that needs to be hooked up with eyes closed, I am happy to get a little help from the camera in the rear of the pickup.   

Now we can use the seed tender to transfer seed from the boxes to the seed tanks on the planter. Start the motor on the tender wagon, open up the valves on the seed boxes, and away we go!

Let's take a look around the rest of this rig. Do you know how to hook up all of those hoses and what they do?  Hydraulic and electrical hoses control the planter.

Mr. Corn Farmer's armrest in the tractor. Maybe when all of our kids are in school I'll learn how to operate this, but that's an intimidating thought.

Fixing. It took all morning to get the planter ready to go before he could try getting in the field. Once he did get in the field, he discovered malfunctioning sensors and electrical issues. The monitors showed that a unit was not planting, when it actually was working correctly. There were many other issues throughout the day.

Troubleshooting. Our neighbor from across the road pulled in to discuss problems he was encountering with his planter. 

On this twelve row planter, each row has a seed box, instead of using CCS. This planter is used when the other one is broke down, or for years like this when weather has delayed progress. With rain forecasted, for which we are very thankful, running two planters can help us plant a large number of acres during a small window of opportunity.

It still isn't working perfectly, but we're making progress.

Sing with me now, Rawhide style: "Rolling...rolling...rolling...keep those planters rolling!"

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