JD, Kinze, AGCO White, and similar planter row units:
- Avoid disturbing the path of the opener. Coulters
pull up mud, create air pockets, and worsen the potential for
crusting. Fertilizer openers should run several inches to the
- Row cleaners shouldn’t move soil, and should
only move a portion of the residue.
- Opener blade flex results in a furrow of variable
shape and depth, often with the lower portion becoming a pinched
unusable slit (zero blade flex would create a 5/16-inch-wide
furrow bottom). Blade flex can be reduced by replacing the 3
mm disks with 3.5 mm blades (already standard on some newer planters).
Note that 3.5 mm disks cannot be shimmed as tightly together
as the more flexible 3 mm blades. Heavy-duty bearings on
some models (e.g., Deere’s XP row unit) also reduce blade
While intended to limit blade flex, standard OEM seed tube guards can wear substantially in just a few hours of use (esp. older JD & Kinze). However, Valion™ (VAL-yon) seed tube guards from Exapta will eliminate seed tube wear and greatly reduce blade flex to create a properly shaped furrow and improved planting depth control. Note that the depth adjustment may need to be set shallower with these improvements.
- Sidewalls should remain intact until the seed
is placed. Indented gauge tires (reduced inner diameter) allow
more lifting, which may adversely affect placement and firming.
- A separate firming device such as a Keeton is
crucial when running spoked closing wheels (which do little or
no packing). Keetons should generally be set to the maximum tension,
and some models exert more pressure than others. Keetons often
need to be replaced annually, since the material weakens from
sunlight and moisture. Check pressure by comparing the “snap” to
a new firmer. Better yet, see our Mojo
Wire for Keetons, which provide up to 5X the pressure of
- Furrow closing should shatter the sidewalls and
cover the seed adequately and consistently. Since the seed has
already been firmed, it’s desirable that the fill be loose,
This photo represents perfect seed placement in a no-till seed
Loose material over the seed is easily brushed away to reveal the
seed 'locked into' the bottom of the 'v' —it is tucked in
tightly & would need to be pried loose. The upper portion of
the sidewalls created by the opener blades has been completely
broken up by the closing system, but the very bottom of the 'v'
is undisturbed. If you excavate several rows and find that
all the seeds are being placed like this, you can be assured that
you are doing a good job (although it would be wise to periodically
check at various locations)—if not all the seeds are being
placed properly, it is time to do trouble-shooting. (Note that
in very wet high-clay soils, the sidewall will not crumble this
completely, but will still be disrupted.) The germinating seed
and seedling first encounters an environment created by your seeding
equipment. In addition to controlling depth and spacing, your seeding
equipment and attachments affect the uniformity of seed-to-soil
contact and the amount and condition of the soil placed over the
seed. This environment determines the rate of air and water exchange
during germination and early growth, as well as the resistance
the seedling encounters during emergence and root system development. Proper
agronomic placement of all the seeds is extremely important for
optimum emergence, early growth, and eventual yield. The following
characteristics are desired for every seed planted: (1) the
seed is adequately firmed into the moist furrow bottom at a consistent
(2) the furrow sidewall is shattered to cover the seed uniformly
with loose fractured soil.
Should you use indented gauge tires?
The idea of installing CNH (also called Reduced Inner Diameter)
gauge tires on JD, Kinze & White planters has been around a
couple decades, and widely touted for improving the ability to
close the furrow and reducing sidewall compaction. While both are
true, we'd like to point out that these gains sometimes come at
the detriment of seed placement (and firming).
The RID tire allows the sidewall to lift while the opener blade
exits the soil. This results in tearing of the sidewall, creating
crevices of various sizes. Seeds may bounce into these. In-furrow
firming devices (Keetons or seedlock wheels) don't engage the seeds
located under the sidewall—and without any firming, these
seeds may not germinate until a rain. Also, the seeds in or under
the sidewall must either grow up through the chunks of sidewall,
or divert over to the remnants of the vertical slit. Either way,
these will be much delayed compared to seeds in the 'v' (which
grow directly upwards), and they might not emerge at all if the
sidewall chunk is very dense.
If you find seeds in sidewall fissures, this might be the culprit.
If your seedlings don't emerge at the same time, you might want
to investigate this. Also, there's a telltale zig-zagging of the
seedlings along the row.
For more details and recent developments in the planter world, see our newsletter on this topic