24 August 2001

Bigger area, more spuds

With more and more

potatoes to harvest each

year, Lancashire grower

Richard Baybutt has

increased his harvesting

capacity with a Dewulf self-

propelled machine.

Geoff Ashcroft begins our

Root Harvesting Special

with a look at his system

SINCE Lancashire grower Richard Baybutt opted to specialise his farming operation into a predominantly potato-based business in the mid-90s, his acreage has steadily increased to the point where two harvesters are now required.

His existing machine, a trailed Grimme SE two-row model with six tonne capacity bunker, has now been joined by a two-row Belgian-built Dewulf self-propelled machine offering the capacity to keep up with the grading lines 500 tonnes/day capability.

"Were now farming a total of about 900 acres of potatoes, which is split between 250 acres of crop for washing and prepacking, and 650 acres for crisping which are grown on contract for Golden Wonder," explains Richard Baybutt who runs his potato operation from Moss House Farm, Bickerstaffe, Lancashire.

"Each year, field conditions get more and more demanding, yet we need to be able to supply potatoes at the drop of a hat to help meet our contractual obligations, and get crop into our stores to maintain year-round supply," he explains. "To achieve these goals on a range of soil types that include peat, heavy silt and black sandy soils, we needed more flexibility and versatility with harvesting."

Mr Baybutt considered all the options when looking for a second harvester. "Another trailed machine was out of the question – I want to keep growing my business, so a long term view of running two self-propelled harvesters and keeping the trailed Grimme SE as a back up is a realistic option," he says.

However, Mr Baybutt recognises that there is not much choice in the self-propelled potato harvester market – even less so, when looking for a bunker machine with good output. So the sudden availability of a second-hand 900-hour example of the Dewulf R5000 Mega, earlier in this year was an opportunity he could not afford to miss.

"I dont like to put tractors and trailers into fields, particularly when conditions are wet. Apart from the damage done to soil structures, theres also a serious mud problem to deal with when trailers leave the field," he says. "Another advantage is that with a bunker machine, harvesting can easily be a one-man operation."

"I wanted a four-row self-propelled harvester on tracks, but such machines are yet to come on stream," he says. "Okay, weve had a few teething troubles, though UK dealer Niagri Engineering from Lakenheath, Suffolk, has been a good help. I think Ive got the next best machine at the moment."

Being shod on five terra tyres, Mr Baybutt reckons ground pressure is low for the R5000, despite an unladen weight of 24t which rises to 36t when its bunker hopper is filled to capacity.

"By the time the harvester has lifted the spuds and run back and forth to the headland to fill waiting trailers, you would think the field had been freshly cultivated and rolled," he says. "The finish it leaves is remarkable – no ruts and no mess. And we dont straddle rows, we lift from an offset position."

Mr Baybutt says the 15m long harvester is surprisingly nimble, too. "We dont need excessively wide headlands – itll turn in the same space as our trailed harvester," he says.

With variable speed hydrostatic drives on all main lifting and separation webs, the Dewulf handles the crop as gently as any other, according to Mr Baybutt. He reckons a daily output of 8ha (20 acres) and a forward speed of up to 5.5mph are realistic. And theres plenty of power to turn all five wheels through a hydrostatic transmission, thanks to a Scania 14-litre, 435hp V8 turbodiesel engine.

By contrast, Mr Baybutts two-row Grimme SE is pulled most of the time by a Deere 7710 four-wheel drive tractor and has the ability to lift 15 acres/day.

"Its not a combination that works too well in the wet – yet we cant afford to leave the harvester standing idle when the going gets tough," he explains. "The only option we have is to put a Challenger 55 on the harvester in place of the 7710."

Mr Baybutt reckons theres no doubt that the Belgian-built Dewulf machine has given him the additional flexibility he needs to continue harvesting potatoes.

"We now have harvesting capacity to spare, as we lifted last years crop with only one trailed Grimme machine. But more importantly, we have our options open and can lift potatoes almost regardless of the weather," he says. &#42

Dewulf R5000 offers a 12 tonne bunker capacity and power to spare from a 435hp Scania truck engine. Its 24 tonne unladen weight is spreadover fiveterra tyres.

Lancs grower Richard Baybutt reckons the addition of the Dewulf R5000 potato harvester to his machinery fleet allows harvesting to continue almost regardless of the weather.