Higher workrates and more precision are the order of the day for the latest potato planters. Peter Hill looks at the latest advances.
Grimme is evaluating a new planter that reflects both those themes - a three-row bed planter with belt delivery of tubers to the opener.
The GB330 (pictured above) is based on the two-row GB215 mounted belt planter and its trailed equivalent, the GB230, to create a higher output machine capable of working in beds widths of 72in to 80in.
Planting element levelling with automatic function and steering is among the options likely to be offered as it is already available on others in the range.
"Being trailed, the GB330 has the facility to have granular fertiliser boxes fitted and it's also fully adaptable for chemical application systems," says Ralph Powell of Grimme.
The newcomer follows last year's introduction of the GB215 belt planter as successor to the GL42K (pictured below). It is essentially the same machine but with significant changes justifying the new identification.
These include a stronger three-point linkage frame and a redesigned axle configuration that gives more accurate Ackerman steering and easily adjusted planter clearance different bed depths.
The new style openers and the flow board are now connected so that planting depth control is operated using a potentiometer to measure flow board movement.
A small centrally mounted plough with hydraulic adjustment is designed to help level the bed and guide soil to the outer side of the openers, which in turn allows the formation of the drill by the flow board.
The flow board itself is now completely smooth to encourage uninterrupted soil flow, while the soil retention plates, which keep the loose soil within the planter, are now free to move vertically while still being able to float over separated stones deposited in tractor wheelings.
There are no changes to the planting system but belt agitator adjustment is now handled from the tractor seat rather than from the side of the machine using the Grimme VC50 Visual Control box.
Completing potato seed-bed preparation and planting in one go has attractions as a means of increasing work rate and reducing costs, so Grimme has developed the new GL420 Exacta (pictured below) for that approach.
Growers can already run a conventional planter on the back of a power tiller or rotary power harrow but a good size tractor with sufficient weight and linkage capacity is needed to lift such a combination.
The 420 Exacta is built to mount on the cultivator in piggy-back fashion, thereby keeping the weight as far forward as possible to minimise the size of tractor needed to handle it. Nonetheless, a tractor of at least 140hp is recommended to be sure of being in charge of the machines.
Unlike earlier Grimme mounted potato planters like the GFL 34K with its reversed mechanically-driven planting units, the new compact four-row machine has the planting belt assemblies mounted conventionally and driven by hydraulic motor.
With the cups constantly fed by sensor-controlled filling elevators from the hopper, this arrangement should maintain accurate tuber spacing, especially given the short distance between the planting element and ridge shaping hood, which gives little opportunity for tubers to roll in the furrow.
The first new Structural potato planter in 10 years - the Miedema Structural MS2000, pictured above - replaces the PM20 with a bigger hopper and a self-levelling belt planting mechanism that uses hydraulic instead of ground drive.
Built in Holland to complement the Miedema cup planter, the new belt-delivery machine is designed to cope well with larger and/or irregular-shaped seed, says Russell Blight from GB distributor Miedema-Mercer. He adds that it is capable of delivering high outputs from working speeds of typically 8-10kph or more.
Introducing hydraulic drive for the belts means seed tubers are no longer left uncovered at the end of the drill because the belt can be stopped before the machine is lifted clear of the ground.
It also means the singling/planting belt can be primed with tubers ready to start planting; on the previous model, the operator has to do that by hand.
"In work, positioning the larger seed hopper a little further back has given the operator a clear view of the belts and soft foam planting roller mechanism so he can more easily monitor the feed process," adds Mr Blight. "And that's despite a larger hopper being fitted that can hold 1,400kg of seed - 200kg up on the previous design."
Users working on anything less than flat Fenland will appreciate the Hill-Master levelling feature, which keeps the planting belts on an even keel whether the machine is working up or down hill. Without it, tubers can roll forwards or backwards and disrupt the even delivery of seed.
The MR-Control system, which electronically maintains an even hood pressure for a consistently tidy ridge finish, is carried over from the PM20 planter. But it now has 5cm of adjustment each way using the HMI colour screen digital controller in the tractor cab that can also be used on Miedema's latest box filler.
Increased grower demand for high output precision multi-bed planting has led Standen-Pearson to develop a bigger version of its Quad potato planter.
The trailed SP644-RT (pictured above) plants three beds at a time, providing up to 25 acres/day capacity; existing machines are two-bed only.
The Quad planter arranges tubers in a four-row diamond pattern within each bed, an arrangement that helps growers produce salad potato crops to tight size specifications. The newcomer therefore plants 12-rows across the three beds in all, with consistent spacing to help regulate tuber growth by giving each plant an equal share of access to light, moisture and nutrients.
Based on a new tubular chassis, the SP644-RT introduces an updated seed hopper design that is being used on all Standen-Pearson multi-row bed planters. Its hydraulic "tipping" rear section is designed for gentle seed loading by reducing drop height to a minimum but without impairing the supply of seed to the hopper floor belts.
"Gentle planting is a major feature of all our planters," says Alex Mathias of Standen-Pearson. "The moving hopper floor presents a controlled level of seed to the cups to minimise chit damage."
Precision planting depth control is automatic across the machine as a whole and on each bed individually, and four-wheel steering helps keep the planter accurately on track.
"The bed-forming hoods lift automatically at the end of each row, with proximity sensors regulating how far they lift relative to the position of the 4t capacity hopper," says Mr Mathias. "For durability, we use stainless steel extensively; for the openers, side shields and the bed-forming hoods."
Manufacturing and distribution rights to Underhaug potato planters have been acquired by Belgian potato equipment specialist AVR; the company says it plans to introduce the machines under its own name next year after production is transferred from current manufacturer TKS Mekaniske of Norway.
AVR produces powered and non-powered land preparation implements for potato crops, as well as haulm toppers and both trailed and self-propelled harvesters. Its products are handled by half a dozen dealers in Britain, including RGS Forfar in Scotland, manufacturer of Scanstone potato equipment.
No announcement has been made regarding distribution but Nigel Mountain of current agent CTM Harpley Engineering says his company will no longer be handling the range.
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