Twelve-row beet harvesters – which first appeared 10 years ago but never quite caught on – are back on the menu and expected to give workrates a big boost.

That’s the opinion of Dutch beet harvester maker Agrifac, which showed a prototype machine this week at its two-day demo at Soham, Cambridgeshire.

Though a number of 12-row machines were bought back in 2004-05, the technology involved in keeping the depth control accurate and autosteer on track just wasn’t quite good enough, says Matt Carse from Agrifac UK. Also, you need to get your logistics right if you want to make the most of the machine massive capacity.

However, the improvement in hydraulic systems since has made them much more reliable. Depth control is also more sensitive and three row-feelers at the front keep the machine on track.

Though the new 12-row machine doubles workrates, it’s a fixed row-spacing machine. That may not suit all contractors, who have to chop and change between the 45cm and 50cm row widths used by most beet farmers.

With a machine weight of close to 33t and a full load of beet weighing 28t, all-up weight is just shy of 60t. That’s not ideal for tracks, he points out, which would wear out too quickly.

So four big 800 R70/38 tyres on the front two axles and two 1050/38 tyres on the rear axle – all steerable – spread the weight, with the rear two tyres close-coupled to allow sharp turns at the end of the row.

Four 1.65m diameter turbines carry the beet from the lifting shares, then the beet pass through four 1.65m cleaning turbines and along an elevator web.

All of this happens twice as fast as on a regular machine to maintain throughput. An auger at the top of the tank spreads the beet evenly across the tank.

Power comes from a 612hp Volvo engine at the back of the machine, giving a sprightly forward speed of up to 7.5kph.

Output is reckoned to be a prodigious 300t/hour in a 100t/ha crop and the tank empties in less than a minute.

The new machines will be on sale for the next beet season. Cost is expected to be just under £500,000 (though that’s yet to be confirmed) compared to the six-row version which costs about £400,000.

Agrifac also says it will be changing the badging of all its beet harvesters to Holmer exxact, which Exel Industries bought in 2011.

So the 12 row machine will change its name from Agrifac Hexa to Holmer exxact HexxTraxx. Other new models for the UK market this season are the Lighttraxx with 12t tank and OptiTraxx version with tracks.

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