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Are ground-driven planters on their way out?

Are ground-driven planters on their way out?
Newer planters have fewer moving parts to worry about than earlier models.

We were trying to decide what to test in the Indiana Prairie Farmer/Purdue Extension trial for 2015. One factor that has traditionally made a difference in whether a planter plants and spaces properly or not is tire pressure. The right pressure in the drive wheels on planters that drive the planting shafts off the ground driven wheels with chains can be affected by the pressure within the tires.

Related: Tire pressure doesn't affect all planters anymore

Pete IIlingworth, who prepares the equipment and operates the planter for the trial, soon reminded me that we couldn't test tire pressure as a factor on affecting plant stand spacing or emergence.

Look mom, no chain! This part of the sprockets sit empty without chains. On this planter the drive shaft is used only to power the squeeze pump.

Why? The planter he uses, even though it is just a Max Emerge II model – not the very latest in technology – doesn't use the drive wheels to drive the planter. If the drive wheels no longer drive the planter, then air pressure doesn't matter as far as the efficiency and performance of planting.

Illingworth points to a series of empty sprockets that used to have a chain around one of them, depending on where you were setting planting rate. They drove the shafts that drove the planting units. He still has a chain tied to sprockets on the shaft because it drives the squeeze pump for starter fertilizer, but he doesn't need chains and sprockets to drive the actual seeding operation.

Planters coming out with electric drive on planter units will eliminate sprockets, chains and shafts together in many cases. That will eliminate a lot of maintenance and costly repairs and updates needed periodically due to wear.

Related: Some farmers upgrading to electric planter units this year

Electric drive units are available now. Kinze has announced it will introduce a planter in its line-up with electric drive units from the factory for 2016. As more and more of these aftermarket or brand name planters hit the market, there will be more planters that no longer depend upon the right air pressure in the tries on the planter to do a good job of planting.

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