Self-propelled harvesters set to make impact
Self-propelled potato harvesters look set to make their mark in the UK – a logical assumption when one considers the development of other harvesting machinery. Andrew Faulkner reports
TWO-, three- and four-row potato harvesting with big self-propelled machines will become an accepted system in the UK within the next five years, says harvester importer Armer Machinery.
To back this prediction, Armer cites the example of Germany, Belgium and Holland where the use of £100,000+, self-propelled potato harvesters is already well established. Farmers and contractors justify the hefty price tag by using the same skid unit for stone/clod separation and planting, as well as lifting the crop.
At home the picture is different. Only about 20-30 self-propelled potato harvesters are currently working in the UK, with the new harvester market still dominated by two-row trailed machines.
But this could change. Armer, which imports the AVR self-propelled harvester range from Belgium, believes potato harvesting will follow the trend set by the sugar beet industry where more than 50% of the national crop is now lifted by self-propelled equipment.
"Just as happened in the sugar beet industry, farmer demand for greater harvesting output will force the market towards self-propelled machines," Armers Tom Woollard explains.
"Switching to a self-propelled allows the use of on-the-move hydrostatic/electro-hydraulic adjustment of working components, big rear tyres because theyre running on harvested ground and not between rows, and more horsepower. A two-row self-propelled should give 25-30% more output than a two-row trailed."
Armers AVR/Riecam ARW260 two-row self-propelled harvester, which made its UK working debut in Norfolk last week, is a fully hydrostatic machine with on-the-move/in-cab adjustment of topper speed, first and second web agitation, web speed and speed of the cart elevator. These on-the-move adjustments are the key to a self-propelleds increased output, Mr Woollard says.
The ARW260 is powered by a 245hp Deutz water-cooled engine, and uses four Linde wheel motors to transmit drive to its four wheels. This gives infinitely variable speed – forward and reverse – in three ranges.
Narrow front wheels steer the 10t unit, and are the only part of the harvester that runs in the unharvested crop; three big rear tyres support the back end of the machine. When working on sloping ground the chassis auto self-levels, and the rear wheels crab steer to compensate for any back-end slide.
Front tyre track width is adjustable from the cab, and the machine can be set up to work in either 800, 850 or 900mm (32, 34 or 36in) rows.
A front-mounted topper defoliates the crop which is then lifted by conventional digging shares. Soil separation is by a series of three webs followed by the option of either a roller separator table or pintle belt; the table and belt can be interchanged. An in-cab monitor enables the operator to check on crop progress as it flows over the roller table.
From the separation system the crop passes onto the cart elevator, which has a maximum discharge height of 4.4m (14ft 5in).
Price of the ARW260 is from £145,000, and Armer expects to sell 5-10 machines/year in the UK. Three- and four-row versions are also planned, with farmers already looking at working the four-row machine in tandem with a two-row trailed windrower – lifting a total of eight rows from a single harvester pass. *