There are three different kinds of down pressure assemblies currently available on the market: spring, airbag and hydraulic. Hydraulic assemblies are markedly more expensive, so are they worth the cost? Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer says research indicates that they are.
“When we look at the Farm Journal test plots, there is a big improvement when you go from a spring to an air bag,” she told AgriTalk host Chip Flory.
According to Bauer, a spring tends to have difficulty holding the exact pressure in the field. Say you're trying to use 150 pounds down pressure, a spring will keep the pressure near there but it won’t hold the exact target very well.
“When you go to an airbag, we do a lot better job of holding the target, and then if you go one more step and you look at the hydraulic option it really steps up again,” she said. “So there's a lot less variation in hydraulic assemblies even compared to the airbag.”
Agronomic field improvements can be seen going from springs, to the airbag, to the hydraulics, Bauer said.
“We've been able to pay for that, all the way up really to the hydraulics,” she said.
Holding an accurate down pressure is critical for peak planter performance. The down pressure is what keeps the planter putting seed at the same depth throughout the field.
“The down pressure is how much pressure is really running on those gauge wheels,” she explained. “So if we don't have enough down pressure, we lose our planting depth. On the other hand, if we run with too much down pressure, then we start to get in some agronomic problems where we've affected that micro-environment around the seed.”
When you’re planning to spend money on your planter, the pressure assembly is one component that should be “pretty high” on the priority list, Bauer said.