The basis for successful potato cultivation

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15 July 2022
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Dr Rolf Peters, PotatoConsult UG, has shared his knowledge with organisers of PotatoEurope 2022, detailing planter types used in different areas of Europe, user considerations and how their usage has evolved.

THE basis for successful potato cultivation is established with potato planting that is appropriate to the location. This involves both a loose, not too moist and sufficiently warm soil and an even placement of the planted tubers in the row. 

Broken grading of the planting material can further improve the starting conditions, as it is easier to maintain a constant planting depth with tubers of approximately the same size. In addition, the driving force and speed of development are at a more comparable level and ultimately lead to a more uniform crop in the corresponding direction of utilisation.

In Western Europe, four-row planters are the main type used on potato farms, with increasing interest in trailed versions. This is due to the fact that the area output increases with the seed stock and that it is easier to combine with other functional assemblies. While the tools for the end-ridge build-up are already part of the standard equipment of the attached machines in many cases, row fertilisation and soil cultivation can be integrated more easily into the attached series via the machine's own chassis. On smaller areas and in sloping regions, however, the higher manoeuvrability of the attached machines is a decisive advantage, so that the front hydraulics of the tractor are mainly used for the additional assemblies. In addition, very compact solutions consisting of a soil tillage implement, laying units and end-ridge build-up are also offered for rear-mounted cultivation, in which the bunker arranged on the tractor side contributes to a significant reduction in the required lifting forces and consequently in the size of the tractor.

With the classic 6 and 8-row planters, a longitudinal drive device is unavoidable for road transport due to their width. An easy-to-handle alternative in this performance segment is offered by folding or rotating versions in which, for example, the outer two or four laying units as well as the tools for the end ridge structure are folded in for road travel. The central planting material hopper supplies the outer laying units during operation via sensor-controlled feed belts and row fertilisation can be implemented via a front tank.

The market for two-row planters is divided into two parts. On the one hand, there are the light and simply designed series, which are mainly aimed at very small export markets. On the other hand, powerful attached and trailed double-row models are also offered, which are primarily used on separated areas with track gauges of 1.8 metres.

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Due to their bunker size of up to 3 t, non-productive times during laying can be significantly reduced and road transport is possible without conversion measures. This market segment also includes the three-row planters, which lay three rows of potatoes in an even bed with an identical track width and aim to increase the market share of seed potatoes or targeted small-fallow food potatoes by distributing the plants more evenly.

In the course of development, the planter has evolved into a multifunctional unit that, in addition to the actual laying process, has taken on a multitude of other functions, such as planting bed preparation, row fertilisation, seedling handling and end-ridge formation. To nevertheless ensure high work quality and area output, manufacturers use a wide range of electronic sensor and control technologies that both monitor the work in progress and store proven settings for comparable operating conditions. At the same time, greater networking of the planter with the tractor is taking place via ISOBUS technology, but increasingly also the possibility of using other operational software solutions, such as field catalogues or pre-planned track management. The increased use of hydraulic and electric drives ensures that the in some cases row-specific specifications can be implemented, for example, when varying the laying distance and the fertiliser application rate in the neighbouring rows of furrows. In order to be able to record and process the multitude of information by the tractor driver, the manufacturers are trying to further develop the control terminals so that they can be operated even more intuitively, but if possible also use a cross-machine programme structure with a certain recognition value.

Source and photo: PotatoEurope Germany 2022