Now that the snow is nearly gone, it’s time to start preparing to plant. While it sounds easy, every farmer reading this knows it’s not. There’s a lot that goes into planting season preparation, but one major issue often gets put to the side. If you want planting to go well, you need to prepare your entire farm. Sure, that means prepping the fields and choosing the right seed, but your equipment needs help as well. Even if you winterized every piece before the first snow, weather might have done damage in a variety of ways.
I’m not just talking about tractors or harvesters. Are your grain bins stable and secure? Are all the sensors working correctly? Over the next few minutes, I’ll discuss some potential issues involving your equipment, as well as solutions to help make planting season prep easier.
Inspect and Clean Your Equipment
At this point, your equipment has been sitting untouched for nearly five months. Before starting it up again, you need to do a full inspection. Every vehicle, machine or piece of technology on the farm needs to be checked.
When it comes to grain storage, it’s especially critical to check for damage. As I mentioned previously, current market conditions may force farmers to leave grain in storage for several months, if not longer. To make that work, farmers need functioning equipment. Yes, it’s time consuming. But it’s better to address any potential problems before they become larger ones.
After all, let’s be honest here. How many of us, when we winterized farming equipment, took the time to completely clean everything? Take your tractor, for example. Debris left on the machine can be deadly. Much of it, including dried grass or pieces of wood, can catch fire using heat from the engine.
Remove any leaves and twigs, while also cleaning off mud from around the engine. A leaf blower works well, as does a pressure washer. Meanwhile, mild soap and water will clear away mud, acid and any chemical buildup on the outside.
Don’t Forget the Inside
For the inside, you’ll need to use a different tactic. Auto degreaser is the best option to clear away engine buildup. And as a preventive step, drain the oil out of any equipment that uses it, as well as any old fuel. This stops any dirt and water that’s accumulated over the winter months from damaging the engine.
Five months is a long time for equipment to be idle. In addition to exterior damage and engine buildup, motorized equipment can get contaminated. By that I’m mainly referring to engine oils, hydraulic transmission fluid and grease, among other things. Just the simple aging of engine parts can contaminate the fluid, as tiny metal particles break off.
Then there’s also water vapor, created during the combustion process in the late fall and early winter. That vapor condenses (and sometimes freezes) on cylinder walls when the engine temperature is cool or simply ice cold. Once that frozen water thaws out, it can enter the crankcase oil, causing sludge and corrosion.
If you just start up the equipment without addressing these issues, don’t expect perfect performance. This is often ignored, as we believe winterizing equipment means we simply flip a switch come planting season in springtime. It’s not that easy.
Financial Benefits of Equipment Maintenance
To solve this, you need to replace all engine oil before the spring planting season. That may seem unnecessary but look at it as a preventative step. You’re doing this now to avoid sluggish performance or possibly engine damage later. Plus, if you follow a regular oil change schedule, you’ll have to take this step at some point in the late spring or early summer months. Why not get it out of the way now?
It’s also a financial benefit. According to a 2009 study from the University of Missouri, farmers saved 25 percent on machinery repair costs simply by doing this basic maintenance.
Planting Prep Takes Many Forms
Once the equipment has been cleaned, oil replaced and winter debris removed, there are a few more things to consider before planting. We’ve talked before about improving grain yield, but now is the perfect time to put that plan into action. Divide your land into sections and set aside one for food crops, one for feed and one to sit fallow for the next 12 months. The idea is by rotating sections each year, it helps you control erosion and keep nutrients in the soil.
You can also take that a step further by deciding what grains to plant and when to begin. It’s best to plant corn, for example, between late April and early May. A study done by Iowa State University found corn planted at that date had a 100 percent yield, compared to 70 to 80 percent for crops planted later.
Let us help you with your grain storage temperature monitoring equipment, from bin cables to replacement sensors to entire remote monitoring systems, we’re here for you. Just call us at 1-800-438-8367, contact us here or live chat to get the information you need for a successful planting season.