The coolest part of covering agricultural machinery is the continuous innovation we see across the industry. Need to plant narrower rows, then harvest them? No problem, engineers and innovators have solved that. Want to harvest soybeans or wheat faster? Bring on the draper header. Seeking faster, more efficient tillage? Vertical tillage is the answer.
Most of these technologies are focused on getting more per acre or being more productive. One key area where there's been a challenge is planting. For years the best planter on the market was most accurate moving at 5 miles per hour or less. Sure you pushed those machines, and may have found singulation compromised.
As we learn more about the value of evenly spacing plants - especially soybeans - on the road to enhanced productivity, the planter speed issue gets more important. Enter the electric planter meter.
Horsch brought the first one to market attached to a planter. Before that Graham offered an after-market electric meter for planters.
Why all the fuss about electric metering? Turns out that individual electric row meters eliminate a lot of moving parts, and those units can be much more easily controlled individually. Instead of clutches and sprockets and gears, or whatever is driving your planter units, an individually powered motor would turn the key parts of the planter.
Most electric motors on the market can be individually controlled to speed up or slow down as conditions change. And auto-shut-off to prevent over-planting, or planting doubles, is easier too. The controller in the cab can turn off each unit as needed - by wire.
More players every day
While Horsch and Graham may be early players, Kinze's rollout of its electric planter unit was big news in 2013. Precision Planting was soon to follow, with its SpeedTube announcement. And John Deere has entered the fray with the ExactEmerge planter as well.
From concept to reality, this tech is coming on fast. And fast is the operative word. Talking with Luc van Herle, who heads up sales, service and parts at Kinze, I learned during the Farm Progress Show that Kinze has had their newest electric-meter planter (available for season 2014) moving pretty fast. For now they company is recommending a maximum 8 mph planting speed, but still getting the accuracy you would see at 5 mph. However, they caution that planting speed should always be governed by crop conditions.
That's significant. You're talking a 60% increase in speed with the same accuracy you had before. If you could plant 100 acres in a day before (just as an example) you'd cover 160 acres in the same time - provided you could get seed into the planter fast enough.
All the electric meter makers talk about maintaining accuracy while pouring on the mph during planting. Given how important optimum planting date can be for your operation, this is big news.
These planters also offer the promise of fewer moving parts, which should make them easier to set up and maintain. If an electric unit fails, swapping in a new one to replace the bad one should be easier too.
And Kinze added some fuel to the fire late in 2013 by announcing it had come up with an electric meter planter that is not only a variable-rate machine, but will also allow you to change hybrids on-the-go. It's the second announcement of its type - Raven pioneered the idea earlier in 2013 with Monosem twin-row planter that could change on the go.