Check for Proper Alignment

At the back of your row units is your closing system. Once the seeds are placed in the furrow, it’s important that the closing system is in proper condition to close the furrow with good seed to soil contact.

To check for proper alignment you’re going to start by going back to the closing tail and feeling for any side-to-side motion. If you feel an excessive amount of side-to-side motion it’s time to check the bushings and the mounting holes of the closing tail itself. If necessary replace those components.

Make Sure the Closing Tail is Centered

Once you have the closing tail tightly aligned you’ll want to set the planter down on a pad of concrete, roll forward about 3 feet, and make a mark. You can then use that center line in the concrete to be sure that you’re centered in the closing tail. If you’re not, adjust the closing tail.

Different closing systems will have different adjustments. In this example, we’re going to loosen two nuts underneath, pivot the tail side-to-side, and tighten it down to be sure it’s trailing properly. It’s best to do this before you go to the field. In the event, you find something else that’s a bigger issue you can fix it in the shop as opposed to trying to do it without the proper tools in the field.

Measure the Distance Between Wheels

Now that you have the closing tail set and centered properly look at your distance between the closing wheels to ensure that you’re going to get the best closure of the trench that you can.

Here are the different extremes for closing wheels. In the first photo, you can see these have been set too narrow. Measuring from the bottom center radius to the bottom center radius there is about 1½ inches. This narrow setting will tend to pinch the top of the trench but leave an air gap around the seed at the bottom. In this environment, emergence will be delayed. 

The other extreme is set at 3½ inches from bottom center to bottom center. This is going to tend to close towards the bottom of the trench, but you’re not going to get the top of that trench closed. You’re going to risk leaving an open furrow.

In between is the optimal setting if you’re planting in that 2-2½ inch range. If you look at 2½ inches from bottom center to bottom center, this tends to center those forces down the edge of each sidewall and completely encapsulate that seed in the moisture beneath, at typical corn planting depths.

Check Your Closing Spring Tension

Once you’ve determined that you have the proper distance set between the closing wheels you now need to determine whether or not you can maintain the right amount of pressure in order to close the trench. To do this in a shop setting you can take a bathroom scale and slide it underneath each row-unit, and lower the planter. Next, set each closing tail on the same notch. Be sure that each spring is still in good condition and applying the same amount of tension. If you see that you’re getting a significant difference from row-to-row it may be time to replace the springs on that closing tail to ensure that you’re applying the right amount of force. Once you get to the field make sure that you dig a cross-section of the trench. You can use a pocket knife or a hand hoe to go in and cut a cross-section of the trench. Pull it towards yourself and ensure that you’ve gotten rid of any air gaps around the seed without over-closing the furrow.

For more, watch this video on closing wheel spacing and alignment.

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