Before planters got so precise, no one thought much about having steel coil springs to control the down force on a planter unit.
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The settings were in notches, not pounds per square inch. If you read the planter manual closely, it might say something about how much pressure per square inch to expect from a certain setting, but it probably also said there could be variation.
As planter technology has evolved so has interest in down force. Precision Planting, Tremont, Ill., then owned by a farmer, made headlines a few years ago when they placed an air compressor on a planter.
The idea behind the Air Force system was to use air bags instead of springs, and utilize the compressor to add air if needed as the planter went across the field to keep down force as uniform as possible.
That provided planter wide control of downforce on the go, which was a big improvement. Now Precision Planting has gone a step further. Instead of air bags they can control the pressure or force on each row unit with hydraulics. It's called Delta Force, and it's a more expensive option, but it does give row-by-row, independent adjustment to the right down force requirement.
There are other products on the market beside those from Precision Planting, now owned by Monsanto. And there are still planters with springs and the four-notch setting.
Bill Lehmkuhl, a farmer and cop consultant who owns Precision Agri-Force, Minster, Ohio, says that if you are using the springs, you need to realize it is old technology,. You also need to realize that if conditions change, down force may need to be adjusted. If springs are what you have then you may have to change the settings by moving the lever from one notch to another.
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Here's a bold prediction – someday planters with finger pick-up planting units and springs for downforce control will be in a museum. Don't think so? Do you think your great grandfather thought a two-row, horse-drawn check row planter would be in a museum?
Think about it!