Happier landings for potato crops

21 August 1998

Happier landings for potato crops

POTATOES do not bounce, or if they do, they dont like it.

Efforts to cut the amount of damage caused to potatoes as they are harvested, sorted and bagged have been numerous; the industry recognises the financial losses that can be incurred.

One of the latest developments – the Fall Breaker, marketed by Broadwater Machinery – is the result of a British Potato Council-funded development by the SAC.

One of the main areas of damage occurs when potatoes are transferred from a harvester to a trailer, reasoned the SAC. Even though most harvesters have the ability to lower their discharge elevators to cut the amount of drop, the concentration and skill required of the operator frequently means the elevator is at a far from optimum height.

The Fall Breaker, which is attached to the harvesters elevator by four chains, is basically a hopper with sloping sides, one of which is cushioned. Potatoes leaving the elevator land on the cushioned side and then drop down to the bottom of the hopper where a spring-loaded trapdoor releases them when there is sufficient weight of crop pushing against it.

Overall effect is to allow the elevator to remain at an almost constant height – out of harms way – with the potatoes having a small initial fall on to a cushioned surface and then a slow-speed delivery to the trailer itself.

Distance from elevator to hopper is critical; too close and the potatoes have too far to fall when they leave the hopper, too far and the potatoes could be damaged as they enter the hopper.

After extensive trials, the SAC decided on an optimum distance of between 50cm and 70cm (20 and 28in).

Suitable for attachment to the vast majority of potato harvesters, the Fall Breaker carries a price tag of up to £385. &#42

Reducing potato damage at harvesting with the Fall Breaker. For the harvester operator it means the elevator can be kept clear of the trailer and, for the potato, it means a safer arrival in the trailer. Note use of the Vegi-Mat cushion in the base of the trailer.

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