Highlights: Seedling reloading onto the Bracke Planter crane-mounted planting device was twice as fast with the MagMat tray-wise-loaded carousel as today’s seedling-wise-loaded carousel; Tray-wise reloading combined with deplugging seedlings from suitable cultivation trays has the potential to be an efficient and robust way to feed seedlings on any type of tree planting machine.
On Nordic clearcuts, today’s tree planting machines produce high-quality but costly regenerations. Much of this high cost is attributable to the planting machines’ low productivity. One promising way of raising productivity is to lessen the time spent manually reloading seedlings onto the carousels of crane-mounted planting devices. Using MagMat, a carousel test-rig designed by engineering students, we studied how much faster tray-wise seedling reloading is on the Bracke Planter compared to reloading with today’s seedling-wise-loaded carousel. The MagMat test-rig held eight Hiko cultivation trays from which seedlings were deplugged individually and dropped into the planting tube. The time study confirmed that seedling reloading was on average twice as fast with MagMat compared to today’s seedling carousel, thereby increasing assumed planting machine productivity by 8–9% depending on the planting device used. MagMat’s cost-efficiency was analysed to be particularly reliant on its added investment cost, mechanical availability and how quickly trays can be switched automatically. Nevertheless, MagMat’s field performance illustrated the overall potential of tray-wise loading compared to piecewise seedling loading for increasing the productivity of crane-mounted planting devices. Also, deplugging proved to be a reliable method of extracting seedlings from the rigid, copper-painted Hiko cultivation trays even when performed at the excavator’s boom-tip during mounding work. We conclude that, rather than piecewise seedling loading, tray-wise loading combined with deplugging seedlings from suitable cultivation trays is a reliable and much more time-efficient method to feed seedlings on probably any type of tree planting machine.