February 27, 2021

Teach Your Planter to Dance

20100419_maxyield_206 compWhile there’s a lot to manage at planting time, it’s important not to overlook the basics of finding the right down pressure and closing the slot around the seed.

“You want to ‘teach the planter to dance,’” said Ken Ferrie, a field agronomist who is widely known through Farm Journal’s Corn College.

How much down pressure? It depends on soil conditions, the speed of the planter, and other factors, said Ferrie, who spoke during a SciMax Solutions Learning Group Seminar on Feb. 7.

First, look for a uniform footprint from one end of the field to the other. This helps ensure a uniform depth of seed placement. “Over-applying down pressure happens way more often in conventional tillage than in no-till,” Ferrie noted.

If you apply 400 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure when 100 PSI will do, for example, it will change the way corn emerges from the soil. Early in the season, Ferrie has seen corn in test strips with 100 PSI stand 5 inches taller, compared to corn planted in test strips with 400 PSI. “It’s important to find the sweet spot with PSI,” Ferrie said.

Tuck the seed into the seedbed

The focus should be on maintaining good seed-to-soil contact. You don’t want an air pocket above the seed or a seam above the seed. You also don’t want dry soil flowing down into the area around the seed, because you don’t want the seed to dry out.

“Creating a good micro-environment around the seed and avoiding compaction are the keys to influencing how water moves to the seed and how the roots grow,” said Ferrie, who added that too much down pressure also hinders proper microbial action in the soil.

That being said, it’s still better to err on the side of too much pressure, he added. “If you don’t have enough pressure, the planting unit can come out of the ground. Uneven planting depth is worse than having some sidewall smearing.”

There are a number of options available to help manage down pressure, including Precision Planting’s AirForce® system, which provides automatic down force control for about $250 to $500 per row. Precision Planting’s DeltaForceTM down force control system delivers row-by-row, hydraulic control for about $1,300 per row, Ferrie said.

Planter speed also plays a big part in teaching your planter to dance and achieving the correct down pressure. “While the job of the row unit is to stay in the ground, row units are like water skis,” Ferrie said. “The faster you pull them, the more they want to come up out of the soil.”

It’s a good idea to slow down, so you can back the pressure down, Ferrie added. This will help prevent dry soil from infiltrating the area around the seed and will help get your crop off to a strong start.

Learn more from SciMax

Do you find information like this useful? SciMax provides the latest precision ag expertise to help local growers maximize their crop’s potential. To get involved, contact your nearest MaxYield Cooperative location or go to www.SciMax.com.



Share Your Thoughts