Planter Evaluation – Now is the time

August 6, 2021

Over the last few years, interest in “yield improving” row crop planter modifications, add-ons, and technologies have been topics of discussion for growers. While there is benefit from various technologies in specific row crops, the jury is still out on every technology and new product contributing to yield (and profit) in every crop grown in South Carolina and throughout the Southeast.

As with any piece of farm equipment, maintenance is important to ensure that the equipment is working correctly and doing the best job that it can do. Planter maintenance is often something that may be overlooked, but in reality is actually quite important. In crops like corn, uniform emergence and stand establishment have shown to increase yield (up to 10-15%) compared to areas where plants do not emerge uniformly. Various components on row crop planter do wear out over time, like double-disk openers, parallel arm bushings, t-handles, and seed meter components, so attention to these components is important. Precision Planting has put together a series of videos that do a great job of explaining various planter components and the impact they can have on yield. The link to their videos is here.

As we progress through the growing season and begin harvesting corn, now is a great time to evaluate planter performance on a row-to-row basis through yield. The easiest way to determine variability of yield across the planter is to go out to the field and pull ears from each row of a specific planter pass. Keeping the ears separated by row, shell the ears, and weigh the kernels. By having the grain weight from each row, row-to-row comparisons can be made to determine if a single row unit or group of row units are consistently low yielding. If a low yielding row is detected, further inspection of the planter, 2X2 system, or fertilizer applicator (if using liquid) can result in some sort of issue being discovered and can be fixed before next planting season.

If ears are going to be pulled from rows in the field, the easiest way to complete this would be to measure off 1/1000 of an acre per row and pull all of the ears in that section of row. After you hand shell the corn from each section of row simply dividing the kernel weight by 56 lbs/bushel and then multiplying by 1000 would result in the bushels/acre from each section of row. The picture below lists the number of row-feet needed to equal 1/1000th of an acre depending on your row spacing. A count of plants within the 1/1000th acre of row will also reveal seed meter performance and whether or not target seed rates were met.

1/1000th Method row feet

Image Credit: Clemson University

For more information or assistance with evaluating planter performance please contact your local Extension agent.