2 February 1996

LIGHT HARVESTER SHINES

A lightweight harvester is attracting new customers to a Cornish contractors maize service after just a year in the field. Peter Hill reports

SELF-PROPELLED foragers may be ideal for harvesting forage maize in most situations but tractor-mounted equipment has the advantage in small fields.

That is the view of Cornish producer Rodney Wallis who runs a busy contracting operation from his 57ha (140-acre) Lamarth Farm, at Gunwalloe on the Lizard peninsula near Helston, Cornwall.

"Self-propelled machines look impressive," he says. "But they need a lot of work to pay their way and in this area, with small farms and small fields, that is difficult to achieve."

As a result, Mr Wallis sticks with tractor-powered harvesting equipment that today comprises a Taarup 622 grass forager, and a PZ MH180S Quattro – a dedicated four-row maize harvester, the first of its kind in Britain.

"In 1994, I bought the Taarup 622, mainly for our 730ha (1800 acres) of grass harvesting, but with a two-row header for maize."

It soon became clear, though, that using an offset trailed machine was not popular with customers because of the waste caused by running down crop when opening up. Mr Wallis started to lose out to contractors with self-propelled harvesters and foragers on reverse-drive tractors.

"Then I saw some information on the Quattro, watched a video of it working, and ordered one straight away," he says.

Other reverse drive foragers have versatility on their side in that they can be used for grass as well as maize, Mr Wallis accepts. But, compared with Quattro, they are also heavier, bulkier and more complex. And being available only with three-row maize headers, they dont match crops sown with a four-row drill.

"This is an important consideration here because with our banks and sloping fields it can be very difficult to match your drills exactly every time, especially on corners," says Mr Wallis. "Harvest four rows at a time and you have no problems."

The PZ 180S Quattro, latest in a line of maize harvesters from Dutch manufacturer Greenland, provides just that. Essentially, the machine is a development of the companys two-row harvester with a beefed-up drive-line and simple side extensions to gather four rows at a time.

The low-line "torpedoes" guide the crop into the machine where four pairs of cutting discs (one pair a row) slice through the stems. Crop from the outer rows is then guided towards the centre by lugged chains (one on each side), before meeting up with the two centre rows and being pulled into the cutting mechanism by two sets of vertical feed rollers – one roller per set fixed, the other spring-loaded.

Two contra-rotating flywheel discs – rather than the single disc – chop the crop while the discharge paddles that send the chopped material up the spout work against rasp bars in the cutting disc housings to smash the grains.

First impression of the Quattro when it arrived at Lamarth Farm, however, was that it did not represent much for the near £18,000 list price.

"But it proved itself in some big crops last year," recalls Mr Wallis. "Performance was excellent. I had no plugs and in an average crop was clearing 1.2ha. I could easily get through 12ha in a good day."

The compact design is a real attraction, he adds. It weighs only a little over a tonne so there is no need for counter-ballast weights on the tractor, and the low-line design gives a clear view of the intake. &#42

Maize grower and contractor Rodney Wallis – he favours the tractor-mounted harvester

…or on a tractors front end three-point hitch. Note the twin intakes (leading to two cutting discs) and low-line design giving good intake visibility.

The compact PZ Quattro can be used on a reverse drive tractor…