It’ll be spring before we know it, and air seeders will soon be hitting the fields. Now is the time for a last good look at them before their wheels start turning. Whether the machine is brand new or new-to-you, focusing on fine-tuning product delivery mechanisms will pay dividends through good, even germination and maturity.
To help farmers cover as many bases as possible, we’ve put together our top-10 checklist of key inspection points. Cut it out and take it out to the farm shop. Tack it on the wall or drop it in your toolbox. That will help ensure you don’t forget anything. Good luck.
1. Start by giving the seeder frame an overall inspection.
With so much horsepower pulling on them, toolbars are subjected to a lot of stresses. Inspect the hitch and main frame for signs of cracks or damage. Check, then equalize the pressure in all tires. This is particularly important if the seeder depends on the frame being level for accurate placement. Ensure packer wheels are following accurately behind openers.
2. Check all bearings on rollers and auger delivery systems for possible damage.
Seed treatments and coating on crops, like canola, can leave a residue that can penetrate sealed bearings and may cause drag and bearing wear, which can slow rotation of the seed delivering system and cause inaccurate seeding rates.
3. Check for opener wear.
Opener designs vary in how much wear they can tolerate before placement accuracy is affected. On some, a relatively small amount of wear can cause wide placement variations. Pay particular attention to openers that follow in wheel tracks, as these typically see increased wear.
4. Check air lines and manifolds for leaks.
Use the soap-test method, just as you would for a propane line to the BBQ (and after you’re done setting up the seeder, maybe it’s time for some sizzling steaks. Just a thought). Squirt a water-and-dishwashing-soap solution around hose connections at manifolds, metering systems, air tank seals and other joints — escaping air will set the solution to sudsing. Eliminating leaks can make a big improvement in seed and fertilizer placement accuracy. Also, look for internal obstructions like mouse nests or other debris.
5. Turn product delivery lines 1/4 turn.
This will maximize the life of lines and even out wear patterns inside them, particularly at bends. It will also reduce drag and help even out seed and product flow.
6. Check tank compartment seals.
Proper product flow requires pressure be equalized between the inside of the tank and the lines delivering product to the drill. A loss of tank pressure will slow product flow out of the tank due to back pressure from higher pressure in the tubes. Not keeping pressure on tank seals during win- ter storage can help keep them in good condition and extend their service life.
7. Check seed monitor sensors.
A build up of seed coating on monitor sensors can affect seeding rate accuracy. Ensure the number of pulses per mile are set properly. They can be affected by tire size, tire pressure and soil conditions. Confirm tire circumferences; there can be a small variation between brands. Measure and be sure.
8. Check for excessive wear on components within the delivery system.
Determine if there is a bypass effect on seed and fertilizer caused by wear. Check auger flighting and or fluted roller delivery systems for wear by running the air fan in the stationary position and watch the end of the seed boot for seed and fertilizer delivery.
9. Test seed velocity at the wing edges.
Take the hose off the last opener on the outside wing of the air drill and attach it to the frame at the angle recommended by the manufacturer. This will help you evaluate air flow as it relates to fan speed. If seed and fertilizer are propelled either less than 12 inches or more than 24 inches from the end of the tube prior to dropping, adjust the fan speed or air dampers at the fan outlet to regulate output and help reduce seed bounce, damaged seed or plugging at the boot.
10. Mark your settings on tillage implements.
After a tillage unit is levelled, mark all the adjustment nuts, lock collars and other adjustable components with a punch or chisel to make it easier to notice any changes due to backing off from vibration.
A special thank-you to the Canola Council of Canada and the former Alberta Reduced Tillage Linkages group for help on putting this list together.
— Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews at Moosomin, Sask. and wishes everyone a safe and happy seeding season.