Suffolk sugar beet contractor Ken Rush has cut labour, compaction and fuel use with a clever German-made self-loading and self-propelled beet cleaner-loader. Called the Ropa EuroMaus, it is one of just four such machines operating in the UK.

For Mr Rush, who deals with 2000ha (5000 acres) of sugar beet each year, one of the key reasons to invest was pressure from farmers to load the crop off their fields. “We can load off any field, provided they have hard access to accommodate lorries,” he says.

Instead of buying a new £250,000 machine, Mr Rush decided to look for a second-hand cleaner through CTM Harpley of Norfolk. The machine the engineering company found was a three-year-old model, previously owned by a co-operative of 15 farmers in Germany.

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The 13m (43ft) long machine is equipped with a 280hp MAN engine and can clean and load 350t/hour – the equivalent of loading a 30t lorry in four minutes.

Its 8.7m (28ft) wide pickup system incorporates 18 screw rollers, with the left-hand nine turning one way and the right-hand nine turning the opposite way. That means the heap is distributed evenly between both sides of the header using an initial finger roller working at a depth of up to 3-4cm, which lifts the beet and passes them on to the comb roller.

Beet are carried to two separator rollers which move them to the outside once again, where the rubber fingers perform initial cleaning before they move to the second stage via a conical roller.

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Most of the cleaning is done by the eight reversible rear rollers, with lumps of earth, beet tops and leaves distributed evenly over the width of the machine.

A central probe (called a nodding dog by the operators), allows the machine to penetrate the heap, while skids at either end determine working depth and a camera feeds visual information back to the cab.

Once the crop is cleaned, it travels up the machine to the loading conveyer, which can be positioned to load lorries on either side of the machine. With a maximum reach of 13m (43ft), the conveyer can be positioned at a height of 6m (20ft), allowing the lorry to be 2m (6ft 6in) higher than the ground the machine is working on.

The locked axle and pivoting 1340-litre diesel tank act as stability aids during loading.

A hydraulically-controlled pivoting telescopic arm allows the driver to balance the flow of beet during the final stage, at the same time reducing the amount of hand work at the end of the heap.

Crab, four-wheel and two-wheel steer mean the machine can manoeuvre well for something so long, and it can fold from work to 3m-wide transport mode in just two minutes.

“You need at least 100,000t to make purchasing one of these viable,” reckons Mr Rush.

EuroMaus vital statistics

  • Gearbox: Two-speed 20kph hydro-mechanical transmission
  • Power: 280hp MAN engine
  • Capacity: 350t/hr or 30t in 4-8 minutes
  • Price (new) £250,000