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Your equipment is only as good as how you maintain it

March 2016

Your equipment is only as good as how you maintain it

Agriculture is a very progressive industry with changes occurring year on year. Technologies change, equipment changes, theories and methodology changes and one which we are noticing more and more is climate change.

As farmers it may feel like we are constantly needing to ‘adapt or die’, and this is true. Farming is all about production; we need to produce as much as possible on as little land as possible at the least expense possible in order for the books to balance at the end of the season. Therefore in order to stay in the agricultural industry we do need to keep up to date with modern methodologies and techniques.

The planting operation is one which has probably advanced more than any other facet of farming in the last decade.

Let us take a look at wheat production for instance; in the past it was common practice to plant wheat by spreading the seed with a fertiliser spreader followed by a roller to compact the seed into the soil. This method did work, but there were many inconsistencies. Calibration was a guessing game and seed was broadcast very irregularly leaving spaces and gaps where weeds thrived.

We then progressed to using a fine seed drill; this is still commonly used today but with much advancement including seed monitors, modified engineering, better fertiliser application and bigger machinery.

The most advanced wheat farmers today are using big air seeders to plant their crops. An air seeder works with a big vacuum that blows the seed down pipes which each lead to an individual planting disc for penetration into the soil. These planters are extremely accurate and are assisting farmers to have excellent seed application which gives good crop coverage and therefore leads to increased production.

Having modern machinery is one step in the right direction of achieving top commercial grain production, but if you do not know how to use the machinery correctly or maintain it correctly then your big investment will never pay off.

Sadly many farmers assume that machinery and equipment will last forever. This will never be the case as everything is subjected to wear and tear and therefore needs good care. A planter for example is one of the most valuable and most important pieces of equipment in your business. It also has the most moving parts, rotating joints, bearings and chains than any other machine which is why it needs the most tender love and care.

Planter care

Let us look at how to correctly care for our planter before planting time starts. The key word here is ‘before’ planting time.

  • Make sure that all moving parts are turning and rotating freely with no resistance. If something is tight or under strain, disassemble it to locate the problem. Once you find the problem part, replace it with a new one and re-assemble correctly.
  • Check the tension on all your chains. Make sure that a chain is not too tight as it could break or jump off the sprocket. Also make sure it is not too loose as it may slip over the teeth of the sprocket and have no effect. It is important that all chains are well oiled and lubricated before entering the lands. Use oil to lubricate chains and not grease as soil cakes on grease and could cause the chain to seize.
  • Locate every grease nipple on the planter and be sure that you apply grease generously to each one. This can be repeated each morning during the planting time.
  • Check tire pressure on wheels.
  • Make sure that the vacuum is blowing or sucking strongly with no cracks on the pipe lines.
  • Be sure that you have put the correct planting plates in the machine.
  • Finally, double check your seed and fertiliser calibration to be sure that you will be planting accurately.

I believe that farm equipment is only as good as how well its owner maintains and cares for it. It may have all the bells and whistles of modern planting technology on board, but if it is not well maintained, then there is a good chance it may be on a fast track to the scrap yard.

Article submitted by Gavin Mathews, Bachelor in Environmental Management.
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Publication: March 2016

Section: Pula/Imvula