One of the biggest questions that we get asked is whether or not there is an advantage to going with a narrow gauge wheel on a planter.
It’s a very common practice in today’s agriculture world for farmers to run a residue management system on the front of their planter to help prep the seed bed that they are going to plant into. Often times when running residue managers in a heavy residue situation they will create a ridge of residue on either side of the furrow, or in some scenarios this residue will ball up into what is called root balls. When this happens the traditional 4.5” gauge wheel will ride up over the ridge or root ball raising the height of the planter at the same time. The rising and falling of the gauge wheels leads to what is called row unit bounce and when the planter is bouncing up and down on the residue it leads to an inconsistent planting depth of the seed.
The reason that OEM gauge wheels have always been 4.5” was that they carry the whole weight of the planter. The thought behind that was that the wider wheel would provide better flotation for the planter to prevent planting seeds too deep.
When to use a 3″ gauge wheel
There are a few different situations where farmers can be confident that a 3” wheel will completely eliminate the row unit bounce without sacrificing planting depth let’s dive into each of these situations.
The first scenario
When a farmer has a hydraulic down pressure system on his planter. With this invention farmers can control the down pressure of each row of their planter individually and are able to set the pressure for each row based on what they are needing to ensure that flotation is not a problem. We’ve found that going to a narrow gauge wheel (3”) with these systems allows farmers to stay inside the ridge of residue and completely eliminate all row unit bounce leading to a consistent planting depth which helps with germination and leads to even emergence.
The second scenario
When a farmer has completely gone to a no-till tillage practice on his farm and is running a CCS (Center Fill) Planter with a pneumatic down pressure system. Because the farmer is not disturbing the soil on his farm, and the ground is much harder in addition to running a CCS planter where the seed is in a tank centred on the planter as well as controlling the down pressure across the whole planter bar there is little risk of adding too much weight on each individual row. So the advantage of eliminating row unit bounce with a 3” wheel outweighs the risk or chance of planting the seed too deep.
When to use a 4.5″ gauge wheel
If a farmer were to be running a box planter where each individual box is quite heavy when full, or running a spring down pressure system that needs to be adjusted manually on each row, we would recommend staying with the 4.5” wheel as the risk of planting too deep due to flotation issues outweighs any potential advantages of going to a 3” wheel.
There are definitely advantages to running a narrow wheel (3”) on a planter providing that the planter is setup properly to take advantage of it. The farmer invented Spoked Gauge Wheel from MudSmith comes in both sizes for whatever you need to get the job done right! If you’ve got questions about MudSmith Spoked Gauge Wheel we’d love to chat, give us a call at 1-855-752-5525.