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Low-Cost Root Crop Diggers
“There are many different ways of harvesting root crops,” says Gary Willsie of Willsie Equipment Sales, which makes a range of harvesting equipment. “You can use plows, undercutters or diggers,” says Willsie. “A plow is the starter piece of equipment for smaller production. Undercutters are a step up. Diggers are more expensive, but they let you go in and pick out the product you want and let the soil drop back on the ground.”
    The Single Shank Furrower Plow digs a furrow centered on the row of produce. It pulls the product at least partially out of the ground, making collection easier and more efficient. It’s priced at $499.
    Undercutters with their angled bar travel below the roots, lifting them and the soil. This makes it significantly easier to pull plants with roots, tubers, or corms out of the loose soil. Willsie’s undercutters start at $1,769.91.
    Priced at $2,299.91, the Willsie Planter-Hiller-Digger is a versatile and relatively low-cost option for the entire season. The 3-pt. mounted toolbar supports twin shanks with plow blades and a planter seat with furrow-closing wings.
    With one shank ahead of the planting seat, the Planter-Hiller-Digger opens the furrow. The seat is extended far enough back from the toolbar to leave room for a container of the bulbs, cloves or tuber pieces, which are dropped in the furrow.
    Simply dropping, not carefully setting tuber pieces or onion sets or other bulbs, may violate longstanding traditions. However, Willsie maintains planting them is easier than some suggest.
    “The plant is smart enough to know it needs to grow up, not down,” he says. “It’s called apical dominance. Just drop them in, and they’ll grow.”
    With the seat removed and a shank positioned to either side of a row, hilling can be accomplished. At harvest, centering a single shank on the row loosens and lifts the crop.
    Willsie Equipment diggers are more elaborate machines designed for harvesting a host of root crops, including tulips and other bulbs. They even have one for harvesting burdock roots.
    “If you’re doing 10 to 15 acres with eight different root crops, you can buy one harvester to work with them all,” says Willsie. “We have one that comes in three different versions, for the 5 to 10-acre grower, the 50-acre grower, and 4-row machines for 100 to 150 acres. We have one we’re working on for garlic this year that’ll pull the bulb and top it right in the field.”
    At $5,422.51, Willsie’s 3-pt. Hitch Digger with a 25-in. chain is at the low end of these harvesters. It operates with either a pto or hydraulic drive. The chain width is also the digging width. The digging blade slips under the potatoes in the ground, lifting them to be carried over the length of the chain bed. Dirt sifts through the chain, leaving the produce to fall on top of the row/bed. Options include coulters, specialty blades, offset hitch, slip clutch, belted chain, custom chain widths, and multi-row configurations.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Willsie Equipment Sales, R.R.1, 9516 Northville Rd., Thedford, Ontario, Canada N0M 2N0 (ph 519-243-2616; toll-free 800-561-3025; www.willsie.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #4