Heavy-duty down-pressure springs have about four different settings — 100, 200, 300 or 400 pounds. With each of these products, growers can add about 400 pounds of down-force pressure, and how they manage that is critical, he says.

Forces that exert pressure up include the ground; opening disks, accounting for 50 to 150 pounds of pressure back up; closing wheels, adding zero to 50 pounds; and row cleaners, adding zero to 20 pounds.

“Down-force is a lot to manage, and we typically manage it on the heavy side,” says Pace.

“So if you have down-pressure springs, you’ll usually set it at one notch heavier than it needs to be just to make sure you get 100 percent of depth when you get to heavier ground. Seed alone, with a 3-bushel hopper, can cause a 100 to 150-pound swing.”

Excessive down-force can cause sidewall compaction in heavier soils, he says. In sandier soils, there’s the risk of root-zone compaction.

“If we’re talking about cotton, it’s more of a taproot plant, and if I’m trying to plant shallow, I may want to put on extra weight to make sure it never rises out of the ground.

If I’m planting corn, at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, I want to put on enough weight to make sure I get my 100-percent ground contact, but I don’t want to carry any extra weight because it can lead to root-zone compaction, and lateral roots never develop.

“When you’ve got root-zone compaction and the seed starts to germinate and set its taproot, it’ll never develop the root system that’ll pay you money.”

If you can get enough down-force to get the seed into the ground but not carry excess weight, it’ll help to create an optimal seed environment, says Pace.

Some growers are managing air bags on their planters, he says, and if you have down-pressure springs, there are retro-fit kits that’ll allow you to use air bags.

“I recommend that producers buy a system that records your down-pressure information. It’s important to start collecting data and to know if you have problems with seed size or soil type. The tools are available to manage down-force automatically.”

Air bags, he says, are the first frontier of down-force management.

“There are systems that allow you to manage down-force pneumatically from the tractor cab. The next frontier is hydraulics.

“With air, I need to manage it across the entire planter because the technology today limits my ability to manage each air bag individually. Also, it takes the system 20 or 30 feet to make an adjustment.

“But we can replace the entire down-force system with a hydraulic cylinder that can adjust the individual row in a sub-second response time. It can go from 600 pounds of down-force to 400 pounds of lift in a very short period of time.