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Respecting the ‘Sacred’ No-Till Planter Pass

The secret to planting success boils down to not only equipment choices but measuring, verifying and doing the little things well, says Bill Lehmkuhl.


Pictured Above: SET UP FOR SUCCESS. No-tillers should think about the microenvironment they’re setting up around the seed when planting, and how the planter performs within that environment, says Minster, Ohio, no-till planting consultant Bill Lehmkuhl. What happens after the first day or two of planting with stand establishment and emergence will often show what potential the crop may have

When Bill Lehmkuhl started doing planter clinics in 1994, he says most growers spent more time managing their harvesting equipment than their planter. Growing up on the farm, Lehmkuhl’s late father commented he spent more time off the tractor while planting than in the tractor.

But Lehmkuhl knows this: by the time no-tillers are fussing over their combine, it’s too late to recover yield from poorly planted crops. 

“The sins of planting will haunt you all season long. The planter pass is sacred,” says the Precision Agri-Services consultant from Minster, Ohio, who’s put on clinics and done consulting work in 21 states and across Canada. “You’ve got to dig in the ground. You’ve got to pay attention.”

Surrounding the Seed

No-tillers need to think of planting in terms of the microenvironment they are setting up around the seed and how the planter performs within that environment. 

“You still need to get your butt out of that tractor seat. I don’t care what that monitor shows you. You need to get out and dig across the entire width of where the gauge wheels run to see what that planter is doing…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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