Getting big, heavy straw swaths to dry properly, especially when they’ve been rained on, can be a pain, but a Co Durham machinery dealer reckons he has the answer. It’s an Italian-made Roc merger that turns the swaths over and fluffs them up so the air can get to the underlying straw.
Nigel Wilson runs Lloyd Ltd, a seven-branch dealer network in northern England and southern Scotland. He had noticed that the swaths made by wide combine headers were proving increasingly hard to dry, especially once they’d got wet. Though this year’s short straw means it’s less of a problem, it’s likely to be an increasing worry in the catchy harvests that now seem to be the norm.
“These 30ft combine headers are leaving a swath that’s too dense,” he says. “The straw is not getting a chance to ripen off properly.”
At the moment, farmers tend to use rotary rakes or swath turners to turn the damp straw over, but these often flick up stones and mud, especially when you go along tramlines, he says. The Roc doesn’t suffer from that problem.
Mr Wilson has been trialling three Roc 380 merger this summer, two with contractors and one with a big farmer, and he says the results have been good.
Mergers are widely used in Europe to aerate biomass crops once they’ve been cut and are generally big trailed machines with working widths of up to 12m. However the models being used in the UK take a 2.94m section from the bigger machines and front-mount it.
There’s an industrial-spec pick-up at the front, which lifts up the swath and transfers it to a wide rubber belt. Both pick-up and belt are powered by hydraulic motors and the speed of each can be adjusted independently of the other. The machine can also throw to either the left or the right.
Mr Wilson says the users are pleased with the results. “The merger turns it through 180° and leaves a nice open swath that sits on top of the stubble. That certainly speeds up drying.”
Forward speeds are typically 8-13kph (5-10mph), so workrates of 8-10ha (20-25 acres) an hour are possible. The machine costs £17,849.