1 December 1995

French sugar beet harvester to cross Channel for 96

By Andrew Faulkner

MORE power, more holding capacity and a modified cleaning system have been incorporated on the final production version of Matrots M400 sugar beet harvester.

The prototype six-row tanker machine (Machinery, Mar 25, 1994) was built in France two years ago. It was powered by a 400hp water-cooled Deutz engine, had a 16t holding tank and used seven turbines to clean the crop.

That was then. Now a 435hp Mercedes unit supplies the power, tank capacity has swollen to 17t and six spiral rollers have replaced four of the seven turbines at the front of the harvesters crop cleaning system.

Frustrating time

These past two years development work have been a frustrating time for Matrot UKs general manager, Geoff Avis.

"Because weve had no tanker option, weve lost out on sales to firms such as Riecam and Vervaet," he explains.

Before 1992, the big Dutch tankers had failed to make an impact in this country, mainly because of their huge capital cost; Matrot and fellow French company Moreau dominated the UK market with their conventional side-loading harvesters.

But the two wet years in 1992 and 93 saw growers recognise the benefits of using a machine which lifted the crop in front of big flotation tyres, and could operate with minimal trailer back-up – the main cause of soil structure damage in a wet season.

According to Mr Avis, tankers now account for about two-thirds of the 30-40 new self-propelled beet harvesters sold in the UK each year. He says those statistics mean Matrot has to offer a tanker harvester, although he is convinced there is still a market for the conventional side-loading machine.

"Side-loading harvesters cost less to buy and, unlike the tanker machines, can be fitted with oppel wheels – still the best lifting option on light, stony land.

"Theres definitely still a market for these machines. Weve sold 10 conventional M41s for this season, and expect to sell the same number again next year."

Nevertheless, tanker harvesting is undoubtedly the current "buzz" technique for lifting sugar beet, and looks like remaining so. Hence the arrival – albeit rather late – of Matrots M400.

Kings Lynn-based contractor Fred Campling & Son operates the only Matrot M400 beet harvester in the UK. More are due to make the trip across the Channel for the 96 campaign. M400 price is £200,000.