Potato planters may be mounted or trailed. Most of them are fully automatic and, depending on model, plant between two and eight rows. Planters for de-stoned beds plant from two to six rows in each bed and a typical twelve-row machine will, in a single pass, plant four rows of potatoes in three adjacent beds. The planting mechanism may be driven by a hydraulic motor or more usually by the land wheels. Hopper capacities vary from 500 kg on a two-row planter up to 5 tonnes on big trailed machines. Chitted seed planters carry up to 1.25 tonnes of potatoes. Wide potato planters are folded hydraulically for transport.
A coulter makes a furrow for each row being planted, while a feed mechanism carries potatoes from the hopper and places them in the ground at regular intervals. Ridging bodies or angled concave discs cover the potatoes with soil to complete the operation. Some planters have a ridge topping bar to leave flat-topped ridges.
Farmers who grow a few potatoes may use a hand fed planter which requires an operator for each row. Potatoes are either dropped down a tube into a furrow or placed in land wheel driven rotating cups which drop the tubers into the soil at regular intervals. Chitted (sprouted) and unchitted seed can be planted with hand fed planters.
Figure 18.6 Cup feed potato planters for chitted and for unchitted seed. (Cramer)