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Telescopic arm extends hybrid’s on-farm appeal

Ring rot-free safe havens next year:By Mike Abram

RING ROT-FREE safe havens for UK potato seed producers could be in place in time for next season”s plantings, industry officials hope.

The scheme will be accreditation-based, with growers signing up as individuals rather than as a region, says the British Potato Council”s seed potato manager Iain Dykes.

That will create a supply chain safe haven, which has attracted more industry support than the original geographic concept, he says. “Getting an immediate 100% tie-in for a regional scheme would have proved very difficult.”

The two key requirements for growers within the scheme will be to source seed that has been directly multiplied from nuclear stock from farms within a safe haven, and for total traceability of each stock”s history, he says. “At each stage of multiplication the seed will be grown on a safe haven farm and you”ll know exactly where it has been grown.”

Another condition of the protocols will be for all seed transport to be in new bags or sacks, or if moved in bulk containers, that there has been adequate cleaning and disinfection.

“Bulk containers are a significant source of cross-contamination, so if bulkers are used they will need to be inspected prior to any seed movement by a plant health inspector.” Mr Dykes is hopeful that compromise will allow the industry to continue to use bulkers, which save significantly on cost.

Machinery movement on to safe haven farms would also require paperwork certifying cleaning had been undertaken, while grading equipment will be designated for safe haven use.

But Mr Dykes is confident the scheme isn”t going to create too many hurdles for growers, although it may take a couple of years to get a large percentage of seed growers on board. “A lot of the high grade producers are already meeting these conditions already, so should be able to join immediately. From there I can see it snowballing.”

 Scheme costs will be kept to a minimum, he stresses. But if ring rot became endemic in the UK it would cost the industry 11m a year a recent ADAS study suggests. “Protecting our ring rot free status is very important.” Safe haven seed could be worth a premium in future, he adds.

Telescopic arm extends hybrid’s on-farm appeal

Telescopic arm extends hybrid’s on-farm appeal: by Nick Fone

DEDICATED LOADERS have their place, as do load-carrying utility vehicles. But when a combination of the two is required, the choice is limited.

Bobcat has developed a machine that it hopes will fulfil both roles. The result is the Toolcat – an ATV-type utility vehicle equipped with a telescopic loader-arm.

To see how such a combination works in practice, we put it to work in some particularly wet and sticky Belgian mud.

There are up to 20 attachments on offer for the Toolcat, ranging from mowers through to muck-grabs, but for the task in hand – moving and levelling soil – we chose a simple bucket.

Climbing into the air-conditioned cab, users familiar with ATV-type utility vehicles will be impressed with the level of sophistication. Seated in the suspended driver”s seat, all controls fall easily to hand.

 A central console houses an armrest and the joystick loader controls. Alongside this are rocker switches to control two and four-wheel steering modes, differential locks and the tipping load-deck.

On the dash, blister pad buttons are used to control various functions, including hand-brake, cruise control and auxiliary hydraulic services. Information is shown on a small digital display that will leave the short-sighted reaching for their spectacles.

Getting the machine moving is simple enough – set engine speed on the hand-throttle and then knock the column-mounted shuttle lever forward.

Hydrostatic Transmission

The onward journey is then controlled by a drive pedal. The hydrostatic transmission provides a degree of braking, although a dedicated brake/inching pedal is also present for those moments when more hasty stops are required.

Digging into some hefty lumps of wet silt, loader performance is surprisingly gutsy, although the engine must be running flat out if fast cycle times are required.

A “work” button allows the operator to select hydraulic performance preferentially over transmission drive. This has the effect of improving loader power, while slowing the wheels and improving traction – impressive stuff.

When a little more speed is required, hitting a button on the end of the shuttle lever shifts the transmission into high range.

Ride over bumpy terrain is comfortable thanks to coil springs and dampers up front and leaf springs on the rear – a set-up that does not noticeably affect loader performance.

 We managed to get the Toolcat stuck up to its axles in some particularly deep ruts. Another vehicle would usually be required to free the stranded machine, but thanks to the loader, we were able to pull ourselves out.

In reality, the machine”s permanent four-wheel drive and locking differentials on both axles mean that traction is not a problem.

However, loader reach is not massive and, when tipping a bucketful of sticky soil, the limited dump angle means that the driver must really shake the bucket to empty it.

Initially, Bobcat sees the Toolcat being most successful in the landscaping and amenity markets. But with both smaller and more powerful versions on the way, it could see some success in agriculture.

An obvious application would be fencing, where a post-knocker or auger could be mounted up front and posts carried in the rear. One factor makes it particularly attractive – a fully enclosed, heated cab – will make all the difference in winter.

Tipping load-deck lifts to give clear access to the 44hp diesel engine and horizontally-mounted radiators. Fuel and hydraulic oil tanks are strapped to either side of the chassis. Bobcat Toolcat 5600 Engine 44hp, 4-cylinder Kubota diesel Transmission Two-range hydrostatic Lift capacity 680kg Lift height 2.1m Load capacity 907kg Towing capacity 1.8t Turning circle 5.2m Max speed 29km/hr Price 25,000

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