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Down Pressure Quiz: How Much is Enough?

April 6, 2010
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete
 
 
Setting down pressure is challenging because it is dependent on many factors that are unique to your fields and that vary on the days you're planting. Take this quiz to test your down pressure know-how.

These pictures were taken by doing a cross-section of how the seed was planted. After the planter passed, the soil was cut away to show the profile of the soil around the seed. Look at the pictures and answer what the field conditions and down pressure settings are.
 
SEED #1:
 
a) This field is too wet to plant
b) There is not enough down pressure
c) The down pressure is perfect
d) There is too much down pressure
 
SEED #2:

 
a) This field is too wet to plant
b) There is not enough down pressure
c) The down pressure is perfect
d) There is too much down pressure
 
SEED #3:

a) This field is too wet to plant
b) There is not enough down pressure
c) The down pressure is perfect
d) There is too much down pressure
 
 
SEED #4

 
a) This field is too wet to plant
b) There is not enough down pressure
c) The down pressure is perfect
d) There is too much down pressure
 
 
Answers:
The seeds were simultaneously planted in the same soil type and field conditions using the same planter. The only variation is the down pressure, which was adjusted to one of four settings on a row unit. With each increase in down pressure setting, the force increases by 100 lb. to 110 lb. on this planter.
 
SEED #1
Answer: D
This picture is of a seed planted with the highest setting for down pressure. Not understanding down pressure can lead to misreading a field's readiness to plant. The slot is pinched closed on top but left open below. Closing the side furrow should be done from bottom up, not top down. The first response is to add pressure to the closing wheels to squeeze the slot shut. But if you have the time and you are at the down pressure you need to hold ground contact and there is still some smearing, go back to the shed and give the field time to dry.
 
SEED #2
Answer: D
This is the third highest setting, and the seed slot is not completely closed. Notice the pronounced sidewall smearing, and dry soil is starting to fill in the slot. Dry soil on the top of the seed will not allow for timely germination. This is a challenge in moist soils and dry conditions. 

SEED #3
Answer: D
This is also too much down pressure. Notice the sidewall smearing and the dry soil above the seed.
 
SEED #4
Answer: C
This is the correct amount of down pressure and was planted using the lightest setting. Notice how you can't tell how the seed got there, the slot is completely closed and there is no sidewall smearing. The goal is to plant in dry conditions, and firm the wall and stand it up long enough to get the seed placed, and then close it from the bottom before the dry soil from the surface falls in.
 
 
The Importance of Down Pressure
Planting without enough down pressure will result in seeds with inconsistent planting depth. Planting seed shallow and deep has the potential to create uneven emergence.
 
"Proper down pressure is a key to picket-fence stands and photocopy ears, it is more important to achieve photocopy ears,” says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.
"Uneven planting depth leads to uneven emergence, which sabotages the chance for photocopy ears.”
 
"If you were to plant at any of the pressures above the second setting, it would wreak havoc on your ear count, and you'd have thought that the field was too wet when you planted it,” Ferrie explains. "When we backed off the down pressure, it planted successfully and resulted in good stands.”
 
 
For More Information
Learn more about how to check down pressure by reading this question and answer from the Ask An Agronomist blog.
 

 
You can e-mail Margy Fischer at mfischer@farmjournal.com.

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RELATED TOPICS: Corn, Crops, Corn College, Planters

 
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