22 May 1998

Propane as green

burners taking off

alternative to acid

SINCE farmers weekly first reported on the propane burning Greenburner developed by Matt-hew Sillifant (FW machinery, Sept 19), progress is reported to have been promising.

Now manufactured by Stan-dens Engineering, Mr Sillifant is confident his projected target of 60 machines sold this year will be achieved.

"The response has been encouraging," he says. "And continued trials have shown that the range of crops the machine can profitably be used on has expanded significantly."

But first to recap. The Greenburner is basically a unit which uses burning propane gas to create infrared heat to desiccate potato tops as an alternative to acid or other chemical desiccants.

Advantages are claimed to include a quicker tuber skin set and an overall cheaper and more environmentally-friendly operation. Relatively simple in design, the unit comprises a 1500-litre (330gal) tank feeding gas to a bank of burners contained in an insulated hood which straddles the rows. Working width is 1.8m (6ft) with a 6m (19ft 6in) version on the drawing board.

Designed originally for the specialist potato market, Mr Sillifant has now used the machine to desiccate daffodils as both as a replacement for acids in the traditional spring operation and intends to use it as a pesticide for the crop in July.

In addition, main crop onions have been treated with the advantage that curing starts much earlier, the incidence of net rot is reduced and discolouration suffered by pulled and windrowed crops eliminated.

And still there is more. Carrots, traditionally covered in plastic and straw, can now miss out on the plastic treatment after a session under the burner. Once treated, and totally void of any surface activity in terms of photosynthesis, the crop can be covered in straw without the cost of light eliminating plastic – and the eventual disposal problems.

Price of the 1.8m (6ft) version is £9850 with the 6m(19ft 6in) listed at £19,100. Mr Sillifants costings, when working on potatoes, puts the operational figures at about £5/acre for gas and a total figure of £28/acre. Output is put at 1 acre/hour with the 6m version expected to approach the 3 acre/ hour mark.

A burning question: How many different crops will this machine find work for? Designed initially to desiccate potatoes – daffodils, onions and carrots now number among its conquests.