The Electric Drive Debate

The Electric Drive Debate from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

I know you are all out there completely consumed with harvest right now, as you well should be. But as I hope you have figured out by now, I want you to be keenly watching the crop throughout harvest and take notes on what you see. Last week I talked about how the planters performance is affecting what you see during harvest from a down pressure point of view, but this week I want to talk about seed spacing and meter performance.

So there is little doubt that the current “it” product when it comes to precision ag is the electric drive. It is what enables multi-hybrid planting, high-speed planting, and a bevy of other things I will talk about this fall and winter. But what about looking at them from just a drive and meter performance standpoint? There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to driving your planter. We go from a drive sprocket, through a chain to the hex shaft. The hex shaft has at least a couple of flex points in it, where the planter flexes or folds as it goes from one end to the other. Then a sprocket driving another chain or our cable or our shaft to the clutch. Then the coupling of the clutch to the meter. All in all a lot of points for failure to occur. When it comes to an electric drive, we have a drive connected to the seed meter. No chains, sprockets, or anywhere else for failure to occur.

The electric drive also allows each row to perform on its own. Instead of having a 24-row planter, you have a bar pulling 24 one row planters. Why does this matter? If you have fields that are just compromised of strait rows, then the planter going a different speed on the left than the right. Going around a corner, there could be a 50 RPM difference in meter speed across that planter. Net Effective Stand doesn’t just matter out in the middle of the field, but everywhere. Improving our stand add up on curves just like it does in strait rows.

So all of this matters because of what you are seeing while you harvest. The plant spacing, singulation, and meter performance are all numbers that add up to the end yield. When our yield is off a few bushels, it is the 1-2% items we gave up along the way (like seed spacing or evenness of emergence) that cost us, not one catastrophic event.

So that’s what I want you to be thinking about right now. Not about how Electric Drives might pay for themselves next season, or how they work, but about what you see right now. If you are in fact seeing things you wished were better, then how did they happen? Remember what you saw, and your hypothesis of why you saw them. Then, when harvest is done, we will start talking about the specifics of your planter, which system is right for you, and ultimately, what an ROI looks like to see if it makes fiscal sense to address. There is plenty of time to find the solution; I just want to make sure we don’t let our opportunity to identify the situation pass by unnoticed.