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Planter Downforce… Is Yours Correct?

by Ben Michael, E4 Precision Equipment Manager

How much row unit downforce does your planter need? How variable are your fields? Do downforce needs stay the same throughout an entire field? Are they the same across the planter? Why is proper downforce important?

We can probably all agree that downforce needs vary throughout the field and may even differ from row to row. Until recent years we have typically set downforce springs or air bags and maintained a static rate throughout the entire field. Now we have the technology to hydraulically control downforce and even uplift actively row by row as we plant every seed to ensure proper depth and uniform emergence.

This spring I had a couple of different scenarios that alerted me to the importance of knowing and understanding gauge wheel downforce. I had a grower contact me and state that he was having poor ground contact causing inadequate downforce. The problem was actually not with the downforce system at all. His row cleaners were set slightly deeper than his disc openers causing the row unit to have difficulty maintaining ground contact. After a quick row cleaner adjustment his problem was resolved.

The second scenario actually happened to me personally. As I was planting, I noticed that a row on the planter was indicating that it was requiring much less pressure than the other rows to maintain 100% ground contact. After several passes through the field, it was apparent that something about that row was different than the other rows. After I stopped to evaluate the planter, I discovered that my floating row cleaner had become locked down by excessive debris in the pivot point, causing that row to “trench.”

The downforce load cells on each row for the active downforce system alerted me to a problem that could have easily gone undetected. Knowledge and understanding of what was happening on each planter row unit prevented costly mistakes in both situations.

Active downforce control is imperative for maximizing yields. It makes for consistent seeding depth and knowledge of what is happening on every row unit. Contact E4 Crop Intelligence to learn more about how we can help maximize yields in your fields by maintaining adequate downforce.