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Keep Seeds Moving to Avoid Delays

Tips to prevent planting setbacks that could hijack time

It’s not “if” something goes wrong at planting but “when.” Seed issues can disturb tubes, sensors, air pressure and monitors. If you can’t keep the seeds flowing, your planter can’t do its job. 

Stickiness and static electricity can clog seed distribution tubes on large central-fill planters. “Some seed coatings absorb moisture, and humid days make seeds sticky,” says Dan Anderson, mechanic and Farm Journal columnist. “That’s why we use talc.” 

When it’s dry outside and seeds stick together from static electricity, graphite helps. Mixes of graphite and talc can take care of both issues.

Follow talc and graphite dosing instructions to avoid clouding seed sensors with dust. If they are covered they will read incorrectly, likely showing low population, Anderson adds. Dig behind the planter to double check.

Sometimes, too little or too much air pressure can clog seed distribution tubes on central-hopper planters.

“Air pressure settings aren’t usually sensitive, but if seeds aren’t flowing well through distribution hoses, changing the air pressure setting can help,” Anderson says. “Bigger seeds take more air to move; smaller seeds take less.”

The bigger the planter the harder it is to find the clog. The quickest way to unclog the tube is to shake it. 

Once you get started again, keep an eye on planter speed—there are limitations beyond the speedometer. If you’re planting 30,000 corn seeds per acre at 5.5 mph it means 13 to 15 seeds move past seed-tube sensors per second, Anderson explains after conducting a quick, on-farm test. 

Seed monitors provide snapshots of the complex planting process. If you don’t get out of the cab and get your hands dirty, population could be off.

“A tailwind can mess up the way a seed monitor reads. It’ll show 2,000 to 5,000 plants per acre off but when you turn the other way it’s fine,” he adds. “If you’ve dug that’s where you need to place your confidence.”

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