While Kinze Manufacturing, Inc. doesn’t have a timeline for bringing its electric multi-hybrid concept planter to market, positive feedback from 2014 testing could make it a big focus.
"This would get very high up on our priority list to get it out there," says Rhett Schildroth, senior product manager.
Announced this week, the concept planter developed in late 2013 grew out of conversations with Beck’s Hybrids. Two years ago, the seed company wanted a way to plant two hybrids on the go and converted a Kinze planter to get the job done. After running into challenges, the company approached Kinze, which modified a 3600 twin-row planter to seed two hybrids.
In 2013, boosts in corn yields on ground planted with the multi-hybrid twin-row planter proved "outstanding," Schildroth notes. Test plots are located primarily in central Illinois.
"Beck’s Hybrids is seeing yield numbers for 2013 that are going easily up to that 10 bu. per acre figure," Schildroth explains. Kinze worked with Ag Leader to integrate the technology necessary for multi-hybrid planting on the twin-row machine.
Yet planting two hybrids with a twin-row design also presents challenges. When switching from one hybrid to another, the rows are offset by about 7 ½", Schildroth says. After turning at the headlands and beginning a new pass, tracks are twice that amount, leaving rows that are 15" closer or farther apart than other rows. That makes it hard to spray and harvest.
"We did some things with GPS to correct for that, but you still get wiggles in your field," Schildroth notes.
Kinze engineers addressed those challenges using the electric drive available on the 4900 Series planter. Each row unit now includes two seed meters, meaning two hybrids are planted seamlessly in a single row. Additionally, the transmission has been fine-tuned so skips and doubles don’t occur.
The 30" 16-row concept planter can only plant two hybrids at this time, Schildroth said, though he can envision a day when more than two might be required in a field—and planted using the Kinze machine. At this time, though, the biggest yield gain happens when switching from one hybrid to two.
Each hybrid is stored in a separate bulk tank. The number of tubes running from the bulk tanks to the meters has been doubled, requiring roughly double the amount of air flow, Schildroth says. At the row unit, the two meters are connected to a single seed tube that places seed in the furrow.
Kinze plans to announce its technology partner for the electric concept hybrid at a later date, Schildroth says. He notes that in order to program the planter, producers must put together a prescription map that not only identifies desired seed rates but also which hybrid should be used for which field zone.
A variety of seed companies have expressed interest in the technology. Schildroth declined to say whether Kinze is partnering with specific seed companies on the project.
The company will manufacture a handful of electric multi-hybrid concept machines that farmers throughout the Midwest will use for planting in 2014, Schildroth explains.
"What we’d like to do is to learn more about the agronomic variables that affect the yields when we’re switching hybrids," he says. Soil type might be the dominant variable in a place such as central Illinois, while low wet spots in fields might be key in South Dakota.
Kinze also see the 2014 planting season as an opportunity to educate farmers about the technology.
"The biggest thing for me is that consistently, every trial we see, the results have been positive," Schildroth says. Kinze will announce new details about its concept planter in February at the 2014 National Farm Machinery Show, though a full planter will not be displayed.