Double Time

Published online: Nov 29, 2019 New Products, Potato Equipment
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This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Potato Grower.


The introduction of Spudnik Equipment’s 12-row planter last year changed how the company views planting potatoes, and is revolutionizing the ability to increase productivity and timing. With this new tool, growers have the ability to achieve better plant stands and fewer seed issues due to cold soil and weather-related problems.

The narrow transport width of the 8312 planter make field-to-field transfer easier. The loading process identical to that of a six-row planter, only deeper. With the capacity of the seed tank, it can cover more acres an hour. The folding of the outside rows (Spudnik employees and growers have nicknamed this machine the “Praying Mantis”) allows growers to plant three, six, nine or the full twelve rows, with the ability to maneuver around obstacles and tight fields with ease. The row units that are on the 8312 are the proven Grimme units that have been used on Spudnik’s earlier planters, making this unit easy to operate and adjust for top performance. The planter has auto depth control, and the wings adjust to keep the seed placement accurate as terrain changes. The planter steering is very maneuverable and works well with GPS steering systems.

In spring of 2019, Spudnik had five 12-row planters in fields from coast to coast. The company reports that in all conditions, they performed very well. They began in Washington State in March. This was the first 34-inch row spacing implemented on the 12-row configuration (all others used 36-inch row spacing). The machine was able to be dialed it in with minimal startup time. Some of the issues encountered included tractor hydraulic flow for the planter, as it takes a good flow of oil to keep all the drives running. This issue was encountered with one older-model tractor that did not have sufficient hydraulic flow; the planter could still run, but not as fast as it could have. The planter performed very well was able to cover the grower’s acreage in less time than normal, making up for the late start to planting.

The Spudnik crew then moved to Idaho to plant in early April. The machine running in Idaho was the first one the company had prototyped in 2018. A few updates had been performed and a hydraulic wheel drive added to help in soft sand and softer, wetter conditions. This proved to be very helpful in enabling the planter to make it through some tough conditions—demonstrating that the planter helped the tractor be more economical in using its power with lower fuel consumption. The option of a rear tool bar with shanks on was used to help rip the tracks out and the center between the rows. The farm was able to plant its acreage in a short planting window, and the operator made the comment that he would really have a hard time going back to a six-row planter.

“I know at first it looks intimidating,” he said, “but after operating this planter, it gets around very gracefully and covers acres quickly.”

Next stop was in Manitoba at the end of April. This would be Spudnik’s first 12-row planter being pulled with a wheel tractor; track tractors pulled the planters in the Washington and Idaho trials. This proved that a wheel tractor, correctly ballasted and with the right rubber, could pull the 8312 planter. This planter also had depth wheels on the shoes to help with consistent seed depth, as Spudnik and the grower were trying to keep the depth fairly shallow and benefit from the heat and quicker emergence to get the plant off to a good start. The auto height sensing proved to work well after adjusting the gauge wheels and the ride height of the shoes, a practice that worked consistently across all five planters. The calibration and operation of this feature proved itself in the field. The productivity from the planter was a big reason the farm wanted to purchase and run the 12-row planter. It proved itself in the season as being as productive as two eight-row planters, which they had employed in previous years. Due to the cold mornings, the Manitoba grower was also able to start later in the day to get warmer soil temperature, as well as finish earlier in the evening, and still cover the acreage in a short planting window. The acreage they were able to cover on their best day in 2019 was around 150. However, weather and temperatures did not allow for a full day of planting, and they calculated they could have reached the 200-acre mark per day.

The planting season tour concluded in Maine, with the last two 12-row planters firing up in May. This is where the Spudnik crew found out just how maneuverable the 8312 planters really are. They planted several small fields, with lots of moving and folding to get to the field or down the road. The turning ability of the planter was as easy, if not easier than, that of a six-row pull-behind planter due to the width and ability to go right back on the next pass. This also tested the machines’ folding ability and unique ability to plant multiple combinations of rows, as field sizes varied significantly. The Maine farm was able to plant as many acres, faster, with two 12-row planters then they had done in the past with four six-row planters. They also have moved from dry fertilizer to applying liquid fertilizer, further speeding up fill-up times. The weather was a huge challenge with all the moisture and the late spring, so timing was key to allow a chance to get a good crop, and get it started right. The agronomist in the field was very excited about the planters and how they performed in terms of accuracy, depth control and acreage covered in a timely manner.

Well into the growing season, the plant stands at each of Spudniks test sites looked excellent. Spudnik says the 12-row planters were successful in operating and fulfilling their expectations.