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Older planters can be refurbished at much lower cost than new.

by Ethan Begle, Technical Service

As we arrive at the beginning of another year, the same question arises of what needs updated in the machinery fleet. There are dozens of planter attachments that claim to improve planter performance, but it’s easy to over complicate simple operations. In fact, the 4 steps Exapta has described to make no-till planting successful will keep you focused on what’s needed most. 

Sharp opener blades, proper down pressure, a seed firmer, and spike closing wheels are all that’s really needed to get good emergence in a no-till field. Challenges arise when trying to deal with residue and root mass, which is when row cleaners can be helpful to clear a path for the blades to cut a furrow. Hydraulic downforce has not only helped to make planting depth more consistent, but it also keeps row cleaners from furrowing down and moving too much soil. Most people would be surprised what sharp blades, and enough downforce can cut through, without using row cleaners. Planting deeper than normal will make cutting through tough residue much easier, along with the added benefits of less fluctuation in soil moisture and temperature, helping to keep germination more even.

Most new attachments are actually old designs with a spin on easier adjustment. Air bag down pressure is now in place of closing bracket springs as an example of easy in-cab adjustments on larger planters with more rows to adjust. Because the original JD max-emerge row unit hasn’t changed much to today’s max-emerge 5 row unit these basic principles are the same. Electric drives eliminate a lot of mechanical parts and give value with row shut offs built in. Older mechanical planters, however, when chains, idlers and meters are given yearly attention, can bring excellent yields. This goes along with our long-standing advice that uniform seed depth should get more attention than uniform seed spacing. See our newsletter for more on this topic.

Looking at costs to rebuild a John Deere XP row unit, (JD, Kinze, and White will be close to this figure) for one row unit.

  • Valion seed tube guard $52
  • FDN opener blades $110
  • Keeton QA seed firmer w/Mojo Wire $59
  • Thompson Closing wheels $290

Total of $511 per row

A rebuild should also involve wear points in the parallel arms, gauge wheel arms, and closing arm. GBGI and Exact Align Pro offer both improved bushing design as well as bearing replacements in these areas to make the row unit greaseless. Replacing these 3 points can add another $500 a row replacing with all new cast pieces. A final step in a row unit rebuild would be indexing each row’s depth setting, making sure that the notch you are using for planting depth is truly 3”. A tight row unit will do much better to accurately place seeds where they need to be. Keep this in mind when debating your next planter purchase.

Chris Horton

Chris Horton brings 25 years of management with him. He grew up on his grandparents farm in Reno County Kansas where they mainly grew wheat and cattle feed. He worked on feed lots as a pen rider and cow-calf operations before moving to Southern California where Chris started a new career in the transportation and transport logistics, eventually managing the western region for a large commercial vehicle leasing company. Chris moved home to Kansas, to manage a local Farmers Coop and then eventually the service dept for a tractor dealership. The opportunity to join the Exapta team came up, and he knew he wanted to be a part of this team.

Bob Pagel

Sales & Service Representative

Prior to joining Exapta, Bob Pagel was an Agricultural Territory Sales Manager for Ritchie Brothers, serving parts of MN, WI and IA. He continues to support his family farm in SE Minnesota.

Jon Zeller

Current Product Engineer

Jonathan Zeller joined Exapta excited to return to working with no-till planting equipment. He supported research of no-till planting and other ag related projects for 7 years with Kansas State University’s Agricultural Engineering Department after getting his engineering degree. He later worked 3 years for Landoll Company, LLC. where he gained experience in a design engineering role. Jonathan grew up on a small family farm in NE Kansas working with row crops, hay and cattle. Jonathan enjoys solving engineering problems and improving or creating products to be robust and easy to install and service.