Ohio Tomato Planting Update

Ohio Tomato Planting Update

In May 2021, PlantTape conducted a tomato transplanting trial in Northwest Ohio. The trial aimed to demonstrate viability of PlantTape’s automated transplanting system for non-irrigated tomato agriculture. Recently, a crew harvested the PlantTape tomatoes and compared yield and fruit quality to conventionally planted tomatoes of the same variety grown adjacent to the PlantTape trial.

The Tomato Planting Trial

In May, as reported in our previous blog post, PlantTape injected subsurface water to the root zone of each tomato seedling during transplanting. The injected water helped the transplanted tomatoes establish themselves during 5+ days of dry, hot weather before the next rains arrived.

Subsequent inspections revealed that the PlantTape tomatoes were thriving on par with their conventionally planted neighbors, with similar height, color, and other health markers.

 

Harvesting the PlantTape Tomatoes

Tomato transplants ready to be planted

The PlantTape tomato harvest compared favorably with tomatoes which were planted with conventional transplanting methods. Both crops—PlantTape tomatoes and nearby conventionally planted tomatoes of the same variety—measured similarly in terms of the following metrics:

  • Stand
  • Yield (tons per acre)
  • Color
  • Uniformity

The harvest further validates the viability of the PlantTape automated transplanting system for no-irrigation tomato growing operations.

 Tomato plant roots from PlantTape transplant

Seeking Partners for 2022 Tomato Trials

PlantTape will conduct further tomato trials in the 2022 growing season, and welcomes partnership opportunities to trial our system’s capabilities in different regions of the United States.

Next year’s trials will test longevity of PlantTape seedlings in the greenhouse, among other critical factors.

PlantTape is giving growers the opportunity to demo the equipment before having to make a final decision on the product.

If you are a tomato grower in the US and wish to participate in a tomato transplanting trial, please contact Danielle Michaels at daniellemichaels@planttape.com to discuss logistics.

 

 

About PlantTape: PlantTape is an agricultural technology company based in Salinas, California. Our automated transplanting system making the nursery and transplanting process more efficient for growers of vegetables, hemp, and tomatoes around the world.

 
The Flexible, High-Yield Nursery: How PlantTape Revolutionizes Greenhouse Operations

The Flexible, High-Yield Nursery: How PlantTape Revolutionizes Greenhouse Operations

PlantTape has gained a lot of attention for revolutionizing the transplanting process (80% reduction in transplanting labor requirements, better stands, higher crop yield), but the benefits of our automated transplanting system show up in the nursery, as well.

PlantTape’s greenhouse benefits include:

  • Greenhouses can double throughput
  • Growers have flexibility on when to transplant
  • Growers can opt to bring nursery operations in-house

We can sum all these benefits in two words: efficiency and flexibility. Indeed, efficiency and flexibility have always been the heart of what the PlantTape automated transplanting system offers to growers and nursery operators.

Enhanced Greenhouse Throughput

A PlantTape Nursery

A nursery using the PlantTape system can double or even triple its seedling throughout compared to a traditional greenhouse using celled nursery trays.“The PlantTape system allowed me to double nursery production, due to increased plant density and shorter growing cycles.” –Jason Kelly, S.A.L.S Transplants, LLC

A nursery using the PlantTape system can double or even triple its seedling throughout compared to a traditional

greenhouse using celled nursery trays.

PlantTape Doubles Nursery Plant Density

PlantTape enables a greenhouse to grow a million seedlings in 5,000 square feet of floorspace. That equates to 200,000 seedlings per thousand square feet of floorspace.

Compared to traditional nurseries that grow 116,272 plants per thousand square feet, PlantTape offers nearly double the plant density. While a PlantTape nursery tray is only slightly bigger than a standard 338 celled tray, it has a much higher holding capacity.

PlantTape Allows Shorter Growing Cycles

With the PlantTape system, a grower can opt to plant seedlings at any point after germination.

Other transplanting methods require workers to manually pull transplants from their celled trays. The plants must be sufficiently developed not to separate from the root system as they are manually pulled out of the tray, meaning they must remain in the greenhouse for a definite maturation period.

With PlantTape, in contrast, the seedlings don’t need to be pulled. Instead, each transplant is placed—still in its original soil plug—into the ground by the PlantTape planting modules. Accordingly, PlantTape seedlings can be transplanted immediately after germination if desired.

PlantTape’s reduced growing cycle allows nurseries to cycle through more seedling sets.

Combine shorter growing cycles with increased seedling density, and you’ve got a recipe for a high-yield nursery.

PlantTape Tape

PlantTape has developed some enhancements to our standard tape material.

Logistical Flexibility on When to Plant

As we discussed in our article on PlantTape enabling a flexible transplanting schedule, PlantTape’s open-ended transplanting timing allows growers to coordinate planting around weather events, labor issues, or other constraints.

Growers Choose Whether to Use a Commercial Nursery

Another way PlantTape gives growers flexibility is by giving them the option to do in-house nursery operations.

For example, some growers find themselves geographically remote from any commercial nursery. With PlantTape, they can set up their own (highly efficient) greenhouse. PlantTape can sow the grower’s seed in one of our and ship it straight to their operation.

So long as the grower has a simple greenhouse set up with T rails and a watering/fertilizing boom, they are equipped to handle the nursery stage of the PlantTape automated transplanting system.

Come transplanting time, the grower simply loads their nursery trays of PlantTape seedlings from the nursery into their PlantTape 3-point planter, then transplants away.

 

PlantTape Innovations

PlantTape has developed some enhancements to our standard tape material, and these offer even more optionality to growers and nursery operators.

Extended-Life Tape

Our extended-life tape biodegrades more slowly than our regular tape, allowing nurseries to keep transplants in the greenhouse for longer residency times. PlantTape’s tape material begins to biodegrade when introduced to water. Our standard tape holds up for 4-5 weeks, which is more than enough for most crops or most scenarios. However, there are crops—onions, leeks, and parsley, to name three—for which a longer nursery stay is generally desirable. Additionally, there are climates or scenarios for which extending the nursery duration makes sense. For example, a rainy climate might necessitate a longer stay while a grower waits for dryer conditions. The PlantTape extended-life tape remains structurally viable for 8-10 weeks: more than enough time for any nursery scenario.

Additions to the Tape

PlantTape can add lime to our tape material, making it perfect for growers who wish to raise the alkalinity of their soil. We can also add slow-release fertilizer to the tape; this is ideal for extended-release tape especially.

PlantTape’s Nursery Partners

PlantTape works with commercial nurseries throughout the US, as well as Canada, Spain, and the UK. If you’re a grower interested in adopting PlantTape and are looking for a nursery partner that uses our automated transplanting system, contact PlantTape for information about the closest participating nursery. For nursery operators interested in adopting the PlantTape system to serve PlantTape’s growers: we offer excellent support, training, and development resources to help you get retrofitted and up to speed.

Transplanting multiple commodities: a demo of the versatile PlantTape system

Transplanting multiple commodities: a demo of the versatile PlantTape system

One of the many benefits of the PlantTape automated transplanting system is its versatility in handling a variety of commodity types. For growers that grow multiple commodities, this versatility proves invaluable. PlantTape gives growers the ability to have a single transplanter that can plant almost every commodity in their farming program

The PlantTape multi-crop field demonstration

PlantTape recently did a field demo to showcase the versatile nature of our system. We loaded six different commodities into our transplanter and planted them all simultaneously.

The commodities we chose for the demonstration were: romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, leeks, broccoli, and cilantro.  Prior to planting, each crop was sown at one of the sowing lines in Hollister, California

After 30-45 days in the greenhouse, the seedlings of each of the six commodities were brought to the PlantTape demonstration field near our Salinas, CA headquarters. A PlantTape 3-point transplanter was loaded up with all six commodities, with a line of each commodity corresponding to a planting module for a six-line bed configuration.

As can be seen in our demonstration video, the transplanter planted all six commodities at the same time without a hitch.

Although this is unconventional, the commodities grew well together for 8 weeks until the bed became overcrowded with the different crop types.

Planting Six Different Crops Simultaneously - PlantTape Automated Transplanting System

Multiple crops loaded into the PlantTape automated transplanter

 

Switching between crops with PlantTape

PlantTape’s simultaneous planting of six different commodities was purely a showcase of how crop-agnostic our system is. While a grower will almost certainly not need to plant diverse crops simultaneously, many growers will need to plant different crops consecutively. PlantTape allows them to do so with unprecedented ease.

Changing plant-to-plant (or in-row) spacing.

PlantTape offers growers a way to change the pant to plant spacing with ease via a simple touch screen computer located on the side of the planter. Spacing can even be changed while the planter is running if the operator chooses.

 

Planting Six Different Crops Simultaneously - PlantTape Automated Transplanting System

Six different commodities planted into the same bed with the PlantTape system

 

Planting consecutive commodities with different bed configurations

If two commodities have different bed configurations—for example, onions and broccoli—then a grower will need to make simple some mechanical adjustments to our automated transplanter.

Line-to-line spacing can be altered in the field with standard hand tools in a matter of minutes. Planting lines can be added or removed by raising or lowering planting modules via a valve on the planting module cylinder.

If a crew is planting 6 lines of onions on a 72” bed and needs to switch to 2 lines of broccoli on a 36” bed, they would load the broccoli seedlings into the transplanter, raise up the two middle planting modules to take them out of action, and make any desired line-to-line adjustments. After a short time, they’re back in business, planting two 36” rows of broccoli at a 72” wheelbase.

Unprecedented transplanting flexibility

Compared to other transplanters, which are often manufactured with fixed bed configurations and designed for a specific commodity, the PlantTape automated transplanting system brings unprecedented versatility to growers of vegetables, tomatoes, and hemp.

Commodity-to-commodity versatility is only one of the many ways PlantTape empowers growers. As we showcased last month, the PlantTape system also offers flexibility in when to plant seedlings.

To learn more about PlantTape, or to request a field demo, contact sales@planttape.com or call +1 (888) 272-6828

PlantTape’s approach to customer service

PlantTape’s approach to customer service

Adjusting PlantTape automated transplanter

From the beginning, PlantTape has prioritized customer service. When our growers face challenges, we make it a priority to help them.

“I’ve been impressed with knowledge brought to the table by the PlantTape team, they always know what to do over the phone. Really appreciate the customer support. Anytime we have a question there is always an immediate response.” Bryan Knepper, operations manager, Rothert Farms, Okeechobee, Florida

When growers contact us for support, their issue typically falls into one of two categories: agronomy-related, or equipment-related.

Agronomic customer support

The PlantTape system is designed to integrate into existing growing operations with a minimum of disruption. PlantTape does, however, introduce specific tolerances, and growers sometimes have questions.

For example, an onion grower might wonder about the timing of mowing onions with the PlantTape system, or a greenhouse operator might have a question about recommended railing systems. Growers might want to ask about recommended fertilizer programs, or any number of other agricultural queries.

PlantTape’s Vice President of Agriculture and Sales, Hunter Smith, has a PhD in Agronomy and Weed Science from the University of Florida and is available to respond to all agronomy-related questions, and to help growers thrive with the PlantTape system. In addition to helping customers navigate specific challenges, Dr. Smith also offers advice, tips, and tricks for maximizing agricultural output with the system.

Equipment-related customer support

PlantTape’s mechanical design makes it one of the most user-friendly automated transplanters on the market. To help our customers minimize disruption and frustration, PlantTape’s customer service representatives and engineers are available 24/7 to respond to any issues that arise.

Whether a grower needs advice on rebuilding their planting modules at the end of the season or is having a bit of trouble changing line-to-line spacing, the PlantTape team is a video call away to keep our customers operational.

Setting the standard for agricultural customer service

PlantTape 3-point automated transplanter in the field

PlantTape 3-point automated

transplanter in the field

PlantTape believes that concierge customer service is the only way to do business. When our growers thrive, we thrive. That’s why we are passionate about our growers’ success and immediately respond to any questions or concerns they may have.

To learn more about PlantTape or to request a demo of our automated transplanting system, visit our contact page, or call (888) 272-6828

Planting tomatoes in the Ohio heat

Planting tomatoes in the Ohio heat

PlantTape conducts a successful tomato planting trial in Ohio

On May 20, 2021, PlantTape conducted a tomato transplanting trial in Northwest Ohio. Planting in the heat, and with no irrigation, PlantTape successfully planted 3 acres of tomato seedlings, using sub-surface water injection to the plant roots.

 

Trays of tomato seedlings rady for transplanting

Tomato seedlings just planted, Northwestern Ohio

Quality Tomato Transplants

Jason Kelly of S.A.L.’s Vegetable Transplants was PlantTape’s nursery partner for the trial. He grew a uniform, hardened-off tomato plant perfect for Ohio’s hot conditions and also for the PlantTape automated transplanting system, which favors a shorter, stockier tomato seedling.

Planting tomatoes with underground water injection

For the transplanting trial, a hydraulic pump injected water below-ground from two tractor-mounted tanks. A hose attached to a nipple on the hollow planting shoe allowed for water to be delivered directly to each seedling’s roots. Using 400 gallons to the acre, the water was injected directly to each plant’s root zone, creating a good seal and minimizing evaporation. The transplants were able to establish quickly and start growing. In the five days immediately after the planting, temperatures remained high and the plants received no additional water. No wilting was observed, and all plants remained vibrant. On the sixth day, it rained.

S.A.L’s Vegetable Transplants cultivated tomato seedlings ideal for the PlantTape automated transplanting system

The PlantTape system proven for no-irrigation tomato transplanting

Considering that much of the American Midwest does not utilize irrigation in tomato agriculture, PlantTape needed to demonstrate planting viability for no-irrigation tomato growing operations. Our May tomato trial did just that, showing that tomato seedlings remain hardy for several days post-planting due to our delivery of water to the seedling root zone.

Previous PlantTape tomato trials in California had already proven the viability of the PlantTape system for tomato agriculture with irrigation; now, its viability for planting tomatoes in the absence of irrigation has been demonstrated.

Transplanting seedlings on a flexible schedule: PlantTape gives growers logistical freedom

Transplanting seedlings on a flexible schedule: PlantTape gives growers logistical freedom

One of the many benefits of the PlantTape automated transplanting system is the logistical flexibility it gives growers and greenhouse operators. Specifically, PlantTape seedlings can be planted at any time after the sowing process.

With conventional transplanting, plants and roots must be sufficiently developed to withstand being manually pulled from celled nursery trays. A transplant that is pulled too early can be damaged or destroyed.

Because PlantTape places transplants into the ground with minimal human touch and without disturbing the roots, seedlings can be planted at any time after sowing. Whether the seedling is at the cotyledon stage or with 5 true leaves, the PlantTape planting modules cut the tape between plants and place each into the soil, while the tape material protects and encapsulates the delicate roots. 

Advantages to growers of the PlantTape system

Produce markets and weather conditions are volatile, and PlantTape’s versatility gives growers the ability to adapt planting schedules to navigate unpredictable events.

Potential planting scenarios and the PlantTape advantage

For example, a broccoli grower might have 20-day old seedlings in the greenhouse when she gets notice that two weeks of rain are moving in. With conventional methods, broccoli plants are too young and fragile to be pulled from their trays at 20 days, so the grower has no choice but to plant in the mud after the storm.

With the PlantTape system, in contrast, the grower can adjust her planting schedule to get the broccoli transplants into the ground before the rain arrives. The seedlings get the advantage of all the rain, and the workers won’t be potentially rained out, and don’t have to plant in the mud.

Planttape trays with seedlings at different ages

 

To use another example, a celery grower has 45-day old seedlings in the greenhouse when he learns that part of his crew is moving on in a week, leaving him short-staffed. (Read how PlantTape reduces transplanting labor requirements by 80%.)

Given the scarcity of skilled agricultural labor, the grower can’t hire more employees in time, and his celery is too young to plant immediately with conventional methods.

Again, PlantTape to the rescue. The grower decides to plant before the workers depart, and PlantTape handles the young celery seedlings just fine.

 

Six different stages of transplants from 1 week to 6 weeks old

A demonstration with romaine seedlings of different ages

To demonstrate PlantTape’s ability to transplant seedlings at almost any maturation stage, we recently loaded our transplanter with six lines of romaine, each line being a different aged plant, and planted it near Salinas, CA.

On the far left, a line of romaine sown one week prior, with cotyledons barely sprouting. On the far right, a line of romaine at 6 weeks with 4-5 true leaves and three-inch tall plants. In between were lines of romaine at 2, 3, 4, and 5 weeks.

As seen in the YouTube video, the PlantTape planting modules had no issue precisely placing each seedling into the soil, regardless of developmental stage.

When we checked in on the 6 lines two weeks (?) after planting, all seedlings were thriving. 

To learn more about PlantTape, or to request a field demo, contact sales@planttape.com or call +1 (888) 272-6828