Downsizing Downpressure

Among the dozens of ways to refine your no-till system, understanding and respecting downpressure can be a key to boosting yields and reducing unnecessary problems.

The Reed family members are some of no-till’s biggest advocates. But the Washington, Iowa, farmers don’t say no-tilling is the perfect, cookie-cutter method. Instead, they say, while no-till is the best way to be a good steward of the land and a profitable farmer, it does take some know-how.

Part of that knowledge revolves around row unit downpressure. Paul Reed and his brothers, Nick, Kevin and Ken, urge no-tillers who want serious results to pay careful attention to downpressure. The Reeds believe downpressure can be your worst enemy.

“The importance of less downpressure and less weight is a big problem with the row units of today,” says Paul Reed. “A 30-year-old row unit design is a big impediment to success. The downpressure amounts are antiquated. An empty row unit equals about 287 pounds, the downpressure springs can add 450 pounds, and seeds and insecticide can add another 150 pounds, or about 787 pounds altogether.

“Weather can change the soil quickly,” he adds. “Over the hill you may need more downpressure, and back up toward the road you may need none. The key is to know what downpressure you need for your operation and soils to make it work.”

Knowing your operation starts by knowing your soil types, Reed says. Each type will require a different amount of downpressure and will affect the yield you produce. The idea is to know what you need to apply and what you can get away with. Use the least amount necessary.

“You can’t compact…

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