Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Andy Vance called Friday just at the right time when I was thinking about corn planters of all things. He needed an interview with a midwest farmer and I said let me call a friend and call you right back.

I dialed up Paul Reed and I caught him at just the right time. I told him the need and he immediately goes on about how Murphy lives on their farm and pops up every time they hit the fields with the planter. It was perfect and I asked if he would talk to Andy and of course he would and here is what happened.

"Gearing Up For Planting

Accept Murphy’s Law, and Prepare a “Plan B”

For Paul Reed of Washington, Iowa, the best way to prep for planting season is to figure out what can go wrong, and have a game plan in place that assumes if it can go wrong, it will go wrong at some point.

“Along with going through all the nuts and bolts things, we follow a simple management rule: figure out the three worst things that can happen,” Reed says. “We always have a Plan B so that if we lose a system or monitor we can continue planting and aren’t stuck on the end rows waiting to get on the phone with a service tech. As our equipment has gotten more complex, so have our problems.”

As one example, Reed says that while his operation relies on GPS and automatic steering, each planter still has mechanical markers in the eventuality that the GPS system goes down. Planting can continue using markers, rather than stalling while a technological solution is found.

The Reed family keeps detailed notes on problems or challenges uncovered during the planting season, and incorporates those records into the preparation for the next season. By focusing on what did go wrong, they improve planning for what might go wrong in the future.

“The name of the game is to keep the wheels turning to take advantage of a limited planting window,” Reed says. “Crops yield by planting date, so you have to take advantage of the planting days available. If you have only 10 or 12 days in an ideal planting window, being able to keep rolling is a big deal.”

He advises systematically checking each system on the planter, from hydraulic and air pressure systems to fertilizer and seed delivery components, looking for wear items that need replaced prior to planting. While conducting that basic planter maintenance, take stock of what parts, systems or monitors are likely to go down at some point during planting, and have replacements on hand.

“Every one of those systems can and will have something go wrong,” Reed says. “How well and how quickly you can overcome those problems is paramount to keep planting.”



Making a List and Checking It Twice

Christmas may be over, but Ohio-based crop consultant and blogger Ed Winkle advises taking Santa’s advice when it comes to planter preparations.

“Tear apart the planter today,” he says. “We tore our planter apart three times during all the rain last year, and we found something every time. We knew the planter so well that as soon as we had a breakdown, we knew where it was and how to fix it with no down time. The worst thing you can do is drag the planter out of the barn and try to go plant.”

With that in mind, Winkle shares his planter-prep checklist:

Go through each row unit piece by piece.
Go through the seeding mechanism, and match the planter to the seed size you are getting.
Go over all stress parts, as well as the frame, wheels and bearings. “You think the part isn’t worn out, but it is. Replace it. You can’t afford to stretch parts too far anymore.”
Go through hydraulics with books and gauges. RTB, Read The Book!
Go through 12-volt system front to back.
Go through electronics, including GPS-related modules and monitors."

As Paul says Murphy rules and what can go wrong will go wrong sometime. Having a network of problem solving people at hand really increases my efficiency and decreases my worry!

This is just part of Andy's article but there is some really good stuff in here. It is hard to put into words what happens and how we prepare for it but I think this really encapsulates the message.

You can't be too fussy about your corn planter, it helps determine your success or lack of it every year. If we were as fussy about perfect planting as we are about land values and taxes we wouldn't have as much to complain about!


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