By Karen McMahon
Progressive Farmer Contributing Editor
Planter row cleaners have come of age. After 25 years on the market, fixed-mounted row cleaners have matured into floating units with on-the-go pressure control from the cab. Planting doesn't have to stop for you to set these row cleaners, and pressure adjustments are infinite.
Demand for these sophisticated units has been strong as more field data verifies the importance of a clean seedbed for even plant emergence. But demand recently took a serious upswing as high-speed planters entered the market, according to manufacturers of the row units.
"When you travel faster, it exponentially increases the risk of problems," reports Andy Thompson, a territory manager for Yetter. "Residue management becomes more important because you can't travel at high speeds if the row units aren't firmly and consistently on the ground."
Planter vibration is a high-speed issue. "Row cleaners have a profound impact on planter vibration and how smooth planter row units run across the field," notes Joe Bassett, Dawn Equipment chairman. Driving across a field creates a vibration similar to road noise in a car. Row cleaners with adjustable pressure help dampen that vibration to allow precise planting.
A major advantage of these cleaners on any type planter is convenience. "If an adjustment requires stopping a planter and spending time doing it, then growers will live with a certain loss of performance rather than stop and lose planting time," explains Cory Muhlbauer, Precision Planting agronomist.
In addition, floating row cleaners can be adjusted to be effective up to 100% of the time. "There is a huge advantage of floating row cleaners for residue management," Muhlbauer adds. "With fixed-row cleaners, we think they only do a [good] job 60 to 80% of the time."
Farmers like Jerry Seuntjens, of Kingsley, Iowa, are learning firsthand the importance of properly set row cleaners. Seuntjens recently invested in Yetter's 2940 air-adjust floating row cleaners when he purchased a 1790 John Deere planter last winter.
"I lightened the downpressure [on the 2940] while going over some rocks and forgot to readjust it right away because I was on the phone," he says. "Afterwards, I could see a huge difference in those few [planter] rounds. They came up later and fell behind the rest of the field."
Seuntjens farms in an area where soil type and terrain are variable. He also custom-plants and may be in a no-till field one day and a field with total tillage the next. "When soil conditions change, it is crucial that you make downpressure changes with row cleaners," he says. "When you can control it from the cab, you will do more adjusting [than with pin-adjust cleaners]." The Yetter system offers five programmable memory settings, as well as a manual adjustment.
This spring, Seuntjens will plant with Deere's new high-speed 1795 planter, equipped with new Yetter adjustable row cleaners. The other row cleaners were left on the 1790 model for a better trade-in value.
"I know [equipment purchases] will slow down with $3 corn, but seed-to-soil contact is so important that [an adjustable row cleaner] will pay for itself very quickly," he adds.
Adjustable row-cleaner prices vary depending on manufacturers and features. But a complete row-cleaner package averages about $1,100 per row. Growers are more willing to pay these prices if they know there is a return on investment.
"For years, we talked about the importance of row cleaners," Yetter's Thompson reports. "With more emphasis placed on planting and more tools to measure performance, growers have tangible numbers of what they lose if they are not doing a good job.
"This has spurred on price increases for cleaners and allows us to do more with them and do a better job," he adds.
Adjustable units are available from three manufacturers. Dawn and Yetter build on-the-go adjustable row-cleaner units, and Precision Planting builds an add-on control system.
The Gfx hydraulic floating row cleaner mounts on the toolbar and is designed to dampen planter vibration and transfer force into the frame with the trailing arm design. The trailing arm design allows the row cleaner to more easily follow the surface of the soil. Pressure up to 120 pounds per row cleaner is hydraulically set from a controller in the cab. Adjustment is instant and across the entire planter. However, ultrawide planters can be equipped with section control of row cleaners by stacking control valve assemblies.
Dawn's Gfx is available for Case IH, John Deere, Kinze and White planters. Dawn Gfx technology formed part of an allied agreement signed between Dawn and John Deere in 2014.
Dawn recently introduced a pneumatic version of the floating row cleaner called Gfx-P. List price including an air cylinder is $899 per row, not including compressor.
For more information, visit dawnequipment.com. .
Precision Planting's add-on control system for row cleaners, called CleanSweep, has been available for a few years. The system includes a dual-action pneumatic cylinder that is attached to each row cleaner for adjustment from the cab. Operators use a cab-mounted controller to adjust row cleaners for changes in field conditions. The row cleaners may be raised up when not needed.
"This is one of our most popular products," Muhlbauer reports. "It is very simple and took care of the painful process of changing pins and bolts on the row cleaner."
It also reduces vibration. "As row cleaners clear away dirt clods, it creates bounce. A little downpressure smooths out the travel," he adds.
The cost of CleanSweep is about $260 per row and is compatible with popular brands of row cleaners. Visit www.precisionplanting.com for more information.
The adjustable row cleaner from Yetter uses two air bags on each row to increase or decrease pressure on the floating row cleaner. Features include instant adjustments made from the cab manually or with five preset memory functions; up and down pressure adjusted independently; section control to adjust the center rows separately from the outside rows; and the units can be raised for end rows and wet areas. A monitor for control comes with the unit, unless the grower has an ISOBUS-compatible controller already in the cab.
Yetter offers other products on the air-adjust system to accompany its 2940 row cleaner. These include a coulter/row cleaner, row cleaner/rolling basket, rolling basket and rear firming wheel.
The 2940 is available for all brands of planters. The retail cost is $1,100 to $1,200 per row, depending on the planter. For more information, visit www.yetterco.com.
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