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First Ozaukee County Demo Farm Field Day

FY19 Ozaukee County Field Day CompositeHighlighting No-Till Planter Setup, Tips and Tricks

Madison, Wis – April 8, 2019 – Over 85 farmers and partners attended the first ever Ozaukee County Demonstration Farm field day on Wednesday, April 3, 2019. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Ozaukee County Land & Water Management Department partnered to develop and support the network of farms that are demonstrating the best conservation practices to reduce phosphorus entering Lake Michigan. Demo Farm Participant, Brian Karrels, hosted the event featuring no-till corn planter setup and tune up information.  Funding for the effort is made possible through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

Angela Biggs, Wisconsin NRCS State Conservationist, and Andy Holschbach, Ozaukee County Land and Water Management Department Director, introduced the new network of three participating farms: Melichar Broad Acres, operated by Jim and Adam Melichar in Port Washington; Redline Dairy, operated by Matt and Sarah Winker in Belgium; and Lake Breeze Farm, operated by Brian and Roger Karrels in Port Washington. “We want to showcase soil health practices like multi-species cover crops, no-till and diverse rotations, that can help farmers be sustainable and profitable too,” said Holschbach.

“Demo Farm field days are a great resource for farmers to learn about the different soil health practices and how they can positively impact their soil’s health and their farm’s bottom line. NRCS has technical and financial assistance to help farmers try these practices on their own farms. Farmers just need to contact their local USDA NRCS Service Center to get started,” explained Biggs. Angela adds, “Mike Patin is the NRCS District Conservationist for the area and we have local offices in Plymouth and West Bend. He is ready and willing to work with producers.”

Brian Karrels, the farm host of the field day, farms 1,600 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat. They are working on building their soil health and are demonstrating planting of multi-species cover crops (spring barley, oilseed radish, berseem clover, field peas, sorghum-sudangrass, and sunflower) and practicing no-till. “The three new demo farms are hitting the ground running in showing the best conservation practices to reduce phosphorus losses,” added Biggs.

Brian Luck, Machinery Specialist with UW-Extension, discussed farm safety and considerations for no-till planter setup. Luck offered some basic safety tips for farmers to remember when working on no-till planters: lock out hydraulic cylinders if possible, block up the planter and row units, never get under a piece of machinery that is not mechanically supported (don’t trust hydraulics), and planter components are sharp by nature – wear gloves and safety glasses.

Field day participants learned about checking their planters and setting them up for no-till. Ensure you check your owner’s manual for specific tolerances and adjustments for your individual machine. “Remember that wear on components has a big influence on planter performance; proper lubrication of the components helps reduce wear” explained Luck. Some key tips were offered during Luck’s presentation:

  • Parallel Link Arms – Ensure bolts are tight, side-to-side movement isn’t excessive, replace wear parts to tighten link arms, and ensure the arms are not bent or binding.
  • Seed Tubes – Ensure they are installed properly and not cracked or broken, and check seed sensor functionality with the monitor.
  • Double Disk Openers – Ensure 2 inches of contact at the soil engagement location, shims can be installed to adjust engagement, replace cracked and worn blades, lubricate bearings, and remember, the left side of the planter has left handed threads.
  • Gauge Wheels – If worn too far, they cannot be setup properly, adjust these in or out to ensure gauge wheels are touching the double disc opener, check the bearing and ensure no wobble, and make sure they are free to move and interact with the depth stop.
  • Seed Boxes – Keep boxes clean as to not plug the meter and cause problems, and when hauling the planter, take the lids off.
  • Closing Wheels – Check the bearings and pivot bushing for wear.
  • Seed Meters – Ensure finger meters (springs and moving parts), vacuum or pressure meters are all checked and cleaned, and ensure the vacuum and pressure system is clean and free of debris.
  • Chains, Shafts and Transmissions – Check everything for tightness and proper adjustment, replace worn chains, lubricate the system.
  • Row Cleaners and Front Coulters – Check for wear and check the bearings. Row cleaners should be skimming and moving residue, NOT doing tillage. Front coulters should be set 1-inch shallower than planting depth.
  • Technology – Update everything annually at least, check wiring connections and wires, and most monitors have a calibration mode to spin the seed plates.

“When you get to the field, check, check, and check again,” Luck adds. “Check your planting depth and remember planters without central fill will lose weight as the seed boxes empty. Also check your seed spacing; monitors in the cab indicate spacing but I still dig multiple locations across the planter to ensure my seeding rate is accurate,” explained Luck.

For more information about the Ozaukee County Demonstration Farm Network, contact Andy Holschbach, Ozaukee County Land & Water Management Department Director, at 262-284-8271, To find out about future Demo Farm events, contact Andy, or search “Ozaukee County Demo Farms” on Facebook, and like the page to see notifications in your feed.

For more information about the technical and financial assistance NRCS provides to try conservation practices on your farm, like no-till, multi-species cover crops, and more, visit or contact your local USDA Service Center by visiting offsite link image    .

Representatives from John Deere, Case IH, and Great Plains were also on hand to discuss no-till planters and show equipment. The field day was held in partnership with NRCS; Ozaukee County; Milwaukee River Watershed Clean Farm Families; UW Extension; and the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection.


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