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April 2010 Archive for Ask an Agronomist

RSS By: Farm Journal Agronomists, Farm Journal

Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

How to Check Your Down Pressure

Apr 05, 2010


It’s common to think that if you are unsure of down pressure, it would be better to err on the heavy side. But farmers need to know that not using the correct amount of pressure has its setbacks.
You can observe and adjust down pressure manually, and a trip behind the planter can guide your decisions.

To manually check if you are achieving adequate ground contact:
  • Stop your planter in the toughest part of the field and leave it in the ground.
  • Grab the depth wheels and see if you can spin them.
  • One wheel should be making contact with the ground to the point where you can slip it, but it is difficult to do so.
  • If both spin free, there is not enough down pressure.
  • If you can’t slip the wheel, then there is too much down pressure.
  • You want good solid contact, but you also want to be able to slip the wheel.

Soil type, tillage system, soil moisture and planting equipment all affect how much force is needed to properly plant. As you plant different soil types and as the day progresses and soil conditions change, recheck your depth wheels. Think about the toughest parts of their fields. Those are the spots where variance in down force is needed, and the toughest parts vary from field to field.
You can also observe the effects of down pressure above ground. Walk behind your planter pass to look at the planter footprint– the depressions and imprints left by the depth wheels. The footprint of the planter can tell you what kind of down pressure is needed. If the footprint isn’t consistent, there is not enough down pressure. A very pronounced footprint means that a lot of soil was moved around by the planter and there is too much down pressure.
Take our quiz on when to know how much down pressure is enough. Click here.

Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

An Indiana farmer asks if by adding a nitrogen inhibitor in the spring nitrogen application, can he eliminate the need for sidedressing?   

Could the N in manure be lower quality?

A dairy farmer from Wisconsin asks why when he applies manure to corn stalks in corn-on-corn, the next spring the corn still looks yellow and sickly.

We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set up, scouting, and other questions to


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