This year you're going to be hearing more about the electric planter unit. There are a couple of after-market players in the business - Horsch and Precision Planting. And Kinze's hot new planter puts the technology to work.
So what's so big about an electric planter meter? Perhaps the big deal is what it doesn't have - no chains, no belts, no individual clutches, no sprockets (I could go on). Just a wire harness to an individual motor that drives each planter unit and that motor can be computer controlled.
Planter singulation is a big issue as farmers try to cover more ground and while bigger and wider planters help, in some parts of the country narrower planters and a little more speed may be better alternative. With electric motor drive, the computer can drive more precise singulation independent of the planter's speed. Consider the potential of planting at 8 miles per hour.
No no one is talking about those speeds yet, but what if you could bump up from 5 mph to 5.5 mph. In a single day that extra 5 miles you cover (say a 10 hour workday) is a lot of acres with a corn planter.
Less moving parts should also mean less repairs, less calibration issues. However, these are new machines to market and they'll be available for the 2014 planting year. The units will be out for testing and there will be plots around to see how this approach to planting singulates at specific speeds.
It's a big change in how planters can be controlled, but a variable-rate electric motor has infinite speed control and linked to a computer could very well turn fast enough to put see where it needs to be even if the tractor speeds up, or slows down. You're all under pressure to cover more ground. Whether this innovation does the job remains to be seen, but plan to check these units out.
It will be interesting to see some field plots planted with these units at different speeds to check singulation and stand counts. We'll keep you posted.