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Narrow, High-Tech Gauge Wheels Tackle Plugging, Emergence Issues

New materials and designs for depth-gauge wheels can help growers improve seed-depth consistency and emergence in tough no-till conditions, and possibly increase yields.

When it comes to no-till planters and drills, row cleaners and closing wheels often get the most attention from growers, giving rise to seemingly endless tweaking and innovation devoted to the attachments.

Gauge wheels, experts seem to agree, aren’t doted over nearly as much — even though they perform an essential function of establishing consistent seed-depth placement that is key to uniform emergence.

“I honestly can’t believe it sometimes when I go out and look at some planters and see the condition the gauge wheels are in, and that’s so important,” says Andy Thompson, an area manager for Yetter Mfg. Co.

But as no-till practices continue to grow, and demands placed on planters continue to increase, gauge-wheel dimension designs are undergoing some important changes.

There’s an emerging movement among no-tillers toward adopting narrower gauge wheels of 2½ to 3 inches instead of the 4- or 4½-inch wheels that come standard on most major planters.

Gauge wheel designs themselves are also evolving, with newer, more durable materials being used, as well as open, spoked wheels that allow mud and residue to flow through the row unit without plugging up the wheels and opening discs.

Innovation Necessary

The role of gauge wheels with planters is only going to increase in importance as growers push planting speeds faster or implement narrow-row cropping systems, says planter and drill expert Phil Needham, co-owner of Needham Ag Technologies.

Currently, only a handful of planter manufacturers offer narrow gauge wheels as an option out of the factory…

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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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