Jennifer Campbell wrote a Web item last spring about the need to check tire pressure in all your implement tires before you go to the field. The freelance writer is a farmwife from Franklin, Ind. She wrote about all the different types of tire gauges that are out there to use, each having its own benefits.
Her main point was that if tires aren't inflated correctly, both wear and performance will be affected, usually in a negative way. That doesn't mean they have to have lots of pressure – many of today's tractor tires are designed to run at low pressures to help on soil compaction. Her point was that you need to know what the pressure should be, and check to make sure it is right.
For years, planter maintenance gurus included checking tire pressure on the planter drive wheels as an important element in planter prep. Too little or too much inflation pressure could affect planter performance.
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Many farmers no longer have planters that rely on drive wheels, however, to power the planter. With the move to electric planter units gaining steam, likely fewer will be powered by drive tires in the future.
I'm setting up an experiment for this spring at the Purdue University Throckmorton Farm with Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension corn specialist. I wanted to test things that could affect planter performance to see if they truly do affect stand and spacing. I was thinking about whether the planter was level or not and whether the tire pressure was right or not.
To check the planter levelness theory, we would need to be able to have the hitch level, then adjusted so it tilts the planter backward or too far forward. Consultants say if the planter isn't level, seed depth can be affected, sometimes affecting stands.
Nielsen told me it was a good idea, but I better check with the farm crew first. He wasn't sure if it would be easy to mess with the planter hitch and run at two wrong and one right position on purpose, so that we could test the three in a replicated trial.
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As it turns out, the planter operator and ace mechanic at the farm, Pete Illingworth, says we should be able to do the levelness test without much problems. He says he can adjust the planter to be level or out of whack either way.
However, if we want to do the tire pressure test, we couldn't do it with their planter. Even though it's only a six-row planter, it's now equipped with a drive system that doesn't involve the gauge wheels. So while pressure on the tires should still be correct for transporting the planter, inflation pressure being too high or too low wouldn't affect the planting process.
Looks like we will be testing why you should have your planter level when planting. From what consultants say, don't wait for us to prove that it matters. Take time to make sure your planter is running as level as possible this year.