Planters continue to get more precise. The latest upgrade is the use of electric motors to drive the seed meters in place of hydraulic- or ground-driven meters.

Toby Graham, Graham Equipment, started selling electric-drive kits for planters in 2011 after designing one for his father’s Monosem twin-row planter. Graham says in the short time he has offered electric-motor drives, they’ve gone from “gee whiz” gadgets to an accepted and sought-after investment

“It used to be that customers would come up to my booth and ask, ‘does it work?’,”  Graham says. “Now, they say, ‘I’ve seen my neighbors use this, and what will it take to make it work on my farm?’”

Growing market

Since 2011, when Graham stepped into this market, several other companies now market electric planter drives. Kinze offers them as an option on its new 4900 series planter. Horsch has made the meters standard equipment on its Maestro planters. You also can buy after-market kits from companies including Graham Equipment and Precision Planting that allow you to upgrade your existing planter. Kits can cost around $1,000 to $1,200 per row, on average, depending on options. 

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Benefits of system

Companies that offer electric motor driven seed meters say they offer multiple benefits compared to traditional drive systems. “Electric drives simplify maintenance as there are no longer drive chains, sprockets or clutches to maintain,” says Drew Gerber, spokesperson for Horsch. “They also offer precise population control with an instantaneous response time on headlands, population changes within a field or planter speed changes.”

“Electric drives will also allow individual row control as well as curve compensation, ensuring your seed population is exactly what was prescribed, maximizing the productivity of every acre,” Gerber adds.

Graham says customers who have bought the drives have gotten full payback after two to three years due to the yield gains brought by better seed placement.

Because of these benefits, companies that make the meters say they will be standard equipment on planters in five years.

How they work.

All of the brands work from the same premise. A small electric motor, installed on each row unit of the planter, drives each seed meter, The precision metering makes it possible to control the seeding rates of individual rows and stop seeding where you don’t want to plant, all on the go. Power comes from a battery or alternator on the tractor or implement. Differences come in the power requirements of each motor and how that power is supplied.