Maintenance can be a critical factor in getting seed in the right place at the right time, but all the maintenance in the world won’t overcome poor calibration of the planter. For pneumatic planters (air or vacuum), calculate the seed weight for each seed by dividing the number of seeds per bag by the weight of the bag. For example, an 80,000 seed bag divided by 50 pounds equals 1,600 seeds per pound. 

From the operator’s manual, identify the correct pressure (air or vacuum) seeding rates under as close to field conditions as possible, for the calculated seed weight. Identify the correct seed disc (or drum) for the calculated seed weight. 

From the planter’s operator’s manual, identify the correct transmission setting for your desired seeding rate and calibrate actual seed drop with the planter transmission settings and the planter monitor readouts.

Calibrate actual seed drop with the planter transmission settings and the planter monitor readouts. Do the calibration at normal planting speeds.

With a big increase in cotton acreage, growers in the Southeast will want to take special care to prevent early season weed competition and pest damage. Likewise, equally valuable grain crops and peanuts will need early-season protection.

Keeping sprayers in operating condition will be critical to meeting the early season demands as spraying and planting become intertwined in the early part of the growing season.

Some tips for keeping sprayer equipment in top operating conditions are:

• Typical adjusting and cleaning of tips, filters, lines and tank.

• Checking all fluids and levels. Consider replacing all of your tips at the beginning of the season, generally the cost is minimal and you might as well get off to a good start.

• Adjusting for flow rate (some monitors may have calibration wizards to help with this task).

• If the sprayer is coming out of winter make sure you clean the tank, you don’t want your winterization liquids to contaminate your first spray load.

• Check ALL the nozzles on your sprayer. It takes time, but will pay off when you get going full speed later this spring. any nozzles that are five percent above or below the average output of the sprayer should be replaced.

A simple thing like a nozzle cleaning brush can save growers a lot of frustration when the season starts. The toothbrush-like brushes sell for a few dollars and they do a better job than a pocket knife.

While checking off the potential trouble spots on a sprayer used to be simple, now that so many growers are going with GPS guided equipment and high tech monitors, sometimes checking the new systems isn’t so simple.

If you haven’t already done so, make a backup copy of the as-applied data on your monitor. This can be as simple as copying the information to a desktop or laptop.”

It’s a good idea to check the amount of free space remaining on your monitor. At crunch time in planting season it will be critical to have enough space on your monitor to function properly during the season.

Winter downtime is a good time to to look at the latest firmware updates and download and install any of the new stuff that can help you when planting season begins.

Some basic high tech reminders include:

• Update settings for overlap.

• Test GPS accuracy and settings.

• Test the auto steering abilities and make certain everything is communicating properly.

• Ensure autoboom/swath control features are operational and set appropriately.

Amidst all the excitement and optimism for the 2011 crop, don’t forget the high price of crop inputs and the high value of these crops. Keeping sprayers and planters in top condition in the cold months can pay off in the warm ones.