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How Can I Tell If I Have Down Pressure Issues With My Planter?

Jun 07, 2011

Question: If I had some down pressure issues with my planter this spring, how could I tell? 

Answer: Corn roots can tell you whether you had the correct amount of down pressure on your planter units. Instead of digging right on top of the plants, stay back outside of where the depth wheels ran. Dig around the plant and pull back on it. If the slot opens up that suggests that the slot was smeared. Next, examine the roots. You want to see a system where the roots come off the crown in a circular pattern and move down through the soil at a 30-degree to 35-degree angle. Dig the plant out of the ground and carefully remove the soil from the root system. Pay close attention to the root system in the area where the depth wheels ran. If there is too much depth-wheel compaction, the roots will be forced to find a way to grow around it, instead of randomly growing down through it. In that case, you’ll see lobes underneath the path where the planter wheels ran, and you’re going to have root systems that are not moving down through the soil as freely as they want to. One side note: Although it’s not always the case, down pressure is more likely to be a problem in conventional tillage than in no-till. 
Take this quiz to test your down pressure know-how. 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.
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