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Farmers need to tweak corn planter adjustments Ensure perfect seed placement | Even new planters need an annual checkup BY RON LYSENG WINNIPEG BUREAU

PORTAGE la PRAIRIE, Man. — Growing a profitable corn crop is all about perfect seed placement, and that depends on the grower and the planter. Corn planter guru Bill Lehmkuhl says good corn crops are based on how well every component of the planter is maintained and adjusted. He said producers should take the time to conduct a complete annual assessment of what the machine needs before they spend money on parts or waste time trying to make adjustments. This is the case whether it’s a used planter the farmer has just bought, a tried and true planter he has had for years or a new machine. “Figure on spending one or two hours on each row unit to check things out, even on a newer machine,” Lehmkuhl said. He said a lot of used planters are coming up from the United States and some of them are pretty shaky. The annual checkup is especially necessary on these planters, he added, even if they’re not old. “Bolts, bearings, bushings, seals, discs. You should check every wear part on every row unit,” he said. “You can spend from $500 to $1,000 per row unit getting everything back to where it should be to do a good job of planting corn.” Levelling the planter fore and aft and left and right is the first adjustment. The operator’s manual gives instructions for each machine. “On the fore-aft adjustment, we want that five by seven inch or seven by seven inch main bar to be level or pitched slightly higher at the front,” he said. “If you remove the marker discs, the wings won’t weigh as much, so to bring it back into level with the heavier centre section, you’ll need to add the same amount of weight to the wings as you took off.” Lehmkuhl said he dislikes centre fill planters because they play havoc

on levelling and other adjustments. He said box fill planters generally require more time to fill, but it’s easier to correctly set up those planters. “The bar height on all planters is 20 to 22 inches when the opener is in the ground,” he said. “That way, your parallel arms are running perfectly level so the down force system works to the optimum.” He said this measurement is universal because almost all planters use seed tubes that are nearly identical. Lehmkuhl said he has come up with a successful way to determine the correct down force for each soil situation. “When the machine is in the ground at working depth, I just go ahead and grab that gauge wheel and try to make it spin,” he said. “If it won’t spin at all, there’s too much down force. If it spins easy, there’s not enough down force. If I can barely make it turn with all my strength, then I know I’ve got the down force dialled in just right.” Lehmkuhl said the airbag option, which became available five years ago, is the ultimate down force system. It’s quick and precise. “The problem with springs is that their pressure changes as the row unit is raised or lowered, and you can break a spring or cast iron component and not know it. Some planters use a lot more cast iron than others.” For more information, contact Lehmkuhl at

ABOVE: To maximize yields, producers should ensure the planter is level both fore and aft and left and right. LEFT: Corn yield is based on perfect placement of the seed. Inconsistencies result in variable germination and result in damaging plant competition. | BILL LEHMKUHL PHOTOS

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Insufficient down force results in weak roots, poor foliage and a weak yield. Plants that received more down force are on the right.