What Planter Class is Right for Your Operation?

Here's what to consider.

There are a number of reasons potato growers want to invest in a new planter. Some want to take advantage of the new technologies available today, while others are looking for ways to increase their profit margins; some producers want increased service, lower maintenance costs and easier access to parts.

Whatever the reason, there is much to consider when it’s time for a new planter. Basically, there are three planter types on the market: belted cup, pick and air cup planters. Seed pieces are scooped, speared or held in place with suction, respectively.

How do growers evaluate what planter type best suits their farm operations? The three basic planter types have different features and advantages. There are a number of factors that will determine the planter type best suited for a farm operation, including cost, terrain, accuracy, efficiency and seed type at planting (whole versus cut pieces).

To begin assessing the best fit for the farm operation, there are a number of questions I ask a grower, including:

  • Why is that grower looking for a new planter?
  • What planter issues or concerns has the grower had in the past?
  • What is the grower looking to achieve with the new planter?
  • What initial investment would the grower like to make?
  • How many acres is the grower going to plant in a season?
  • What is the planting window?
  • What is the terrain like?
  • What is the accuracy the grower would like to achieve?

A belted cup planter requires the lowest initial investment and may work best for smaller scale growers. These planters also fit operations with longer planting windows. Belted cup planters are the simplest machines and need the least maintenance; however, these planters are slower and less accurate than the other two types.

For example, irregularly-shaped cut seed pieces may fall out of the cups, which could result in skips or doubles, decreasing the planter’s seed placement accuracy. Additionally, on hilly terrain, seed pieces can roll out of the cups.

The initial investment for a pick planter is in between that of the other two classes. Speed and accuracy also falls in between that of belted cup and air cup type planters.

Because pick planters spear seed pieces, these planters do well on hilly terrain. The planter’s release mechanism also permits increased speeds and accuracy over belted cup planters. This planter type works well with both whole and cut seed pieces. However, disease risk is higher with pick planters when compared with the other classes.

Of the three types, air cup planters are the most accurate and efficient. Seed pieces are sucked onto snorkels and held there until they are released in the furrow. For this reason, these planters are the best on hilly terrain and for use with irregularly shaped and sized cut seed pieces.

The snorkels of an air cup planter wheel. 

The release mechanism allows faster, more accurate planting of cut seed pieces. This planter class is also highly recommended for use with whole seed as it easily picks up small, round shapes.

Air cup planters also work best for growers with many acres to plant or short planting windows — they need a planter that can plant accurately and with speed. However, the initial investment cost and maintenance is higher than the other two classes.

Today’s planters can increase your profits. Considering the conditions under which you will be planting can help you begin the process of finding the right planter for your farm operation.

Here's what to consider.

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