30 October 1998

All systems go

after 13 years

Thirteen years have passed since the last national sugar

beet harvesting demonstration. No surprise, then, that this

years Beet UKevent attracted a batch of new machines

and a large number of visitors. Ian Marshall reports

SUGAR BEET growers and contractors, clearly starved of a working harvesting demonstration for too many years, grabbed the opportunity when it finally came to attend the Beet UK event.

The demonstration also gave British Sugar an opportunity to revive its harvester assessment programme and provide a means of comparing machine performance in terms of damage. to the crop, obtained through the use of data from an "electronic beet".

"Using data produced from an electronic beet we can establish the degree of damage caused as it passes through the harvester," explains Stephen Brown, project manager for British Sugar R&D department.

"Future plans include working with manufacturers, using the electronic beet to pin point where improvements can be made in harvester design."

Although still not exclusively the domain of the contractor, the operation is clearly working towards it being so.

"The combination of farm incomes coming under increased pressure, a reduced labour force and the price of harvesters has led to a significant swing to contractors over the past two years," says Mr Brown.

"British Sugar calculates that contractors now handle 60% of the national crop, with the remainder lifted by farmer groups and individual growers."

This is borne out by the increase in the number of self-propelled machines being sold in the UK and the decline in sales of smaller, trailed units.

"Furthermore," points out Mr Brown, "five years ago only two makes of six row self propelled were commercially available in the UK – there are 10 at this years demonstration."

In terms of harvester design, Mr Brown maintains it has been more a case of evolution than revolution, with, overall, limited changes to lifting and cleaning mechanisms.

However, new brush and star wheel systems, which are gentler on the crop, are being developed and introduced.

Where manufacturers have been concentrating is in reducing soil compaction through the use of wider tyres and/or spreading the weight of the harvester over a number of axles.

"Growers should pay more attention to compaction. It is worth paying the contractor an extra few £/acre to have the crop unloaded on the headland, rather than run a tractor and trailer alongside the harvester," maintains Mr Brown.

Harvester assessments 1998

Harvester Speed Losses Dirt tare Impact

damage*

Above Root Total

ground breakages

(kph) (t/ha) (t/ha) (t/ha) (%) (J)

2-row trailed

Garford KR2 5.0 0.71 1.39 2.10 7.8 65

Juko XJ200 4.5 0.39 1.57 1.96 5.5 95

3-row trailed

Armer Salmon

ST3 6.2 0.87 4.02 4.89 4.5 104

Standen-Thyregod

T7 5.0 0.54 1.81 2.36 4.9 81

TIM GB Mk111

SH/1200 7.0 0.26 2.10 2.36 8.1 53

4-row trailed

Garford Victor 5.0 0.12 0.94 1.06 6.4 116

6-row trailed

Garford Victor 4.0 0.20 0.46 0.65 8.7 103

6-row self-propelled

Agrifac ZA 215EH 4.5 0.13 1.04 1.17 5.7 93

Agrifac WKM

9000 5.0 0.29 1.44 1.73 6.2 83

Agrifac WKM

Big Six 4.8 0.12 1.47 1.59 4.6 106

Garford Kleine

SF10 5.0 0.50 1.72 2.21 6.2 100

Standen Reflex

Holmer 6.0 0.25 0.83 1.08 6.1 64

Terra Dos

TIM GB SR 2500 6.0 0.31 1.15 1.45 7.1 74

Riecam RBM 300S 4.5 0.21 0.96 1.18 6.2 89

Franquet Tetra 5.0 0.06 1.20 1.26 5.2 95

Matrot M41H 5.0 0.32 0.80 1.12 4.1 64

Vervaet Tanker 5.5 0.27 1.20 1.47 6.8 63

Moreau Voltra

6.24 5.0 0.18 1.84 2.02 5.3 81

*Measured using electronic beet, lower score = less damage