The dire weather conditions this winter has thrown at potato growers in the United Kingdom has created a harvest that has been far more challenging than the industry has seen for many years.
After a number of relatively dry winters, this has caused even more problems, with much of the cleaning machinery on the market struggling effectively to separate heavy and sodden soil from the crop.
Steven Skipper, agricultural division sales engineer at leading handling systems manufacturers, Herbert Engineering, says: “Many growers are finding it absolutely horrendous. With potatoes commanding a much higher price this year, growers need to protect the crop and maximise income and do not want to be harvesting, storing and drying large amounts of soil, let alone sending it to their customers, just because cleaners cannot efficiently separate the soil from the crops. The extra time that harvesting takes with heavy and wet soil plays a part too, as growers are paying the same hourly rate whether they can process one tonne an hour or ten tonnes an hour, so slow processing means higher costs.”
However, with positive feedback from customers, Herbert Engineering say that their Variclean and Coil Cleaner Plus cleaners designed for the removal of stone, clod and haulm have performed exceptionally well, despite heavy soil conditions throughout the country, because they are designed to clean more aggressively when conditions dictate.
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Herbert Engineering VariClean
Steven Skipper continues: “One customer has just replaced an existing cleaner with a Herbert Variclean. He tells us that, had he not done so, he would have lost much of his crop and ended up storing high volumes of soil, because his old machine could not handle the conditions.”
Grower James Woodroffe of Hundreds Farm Ltd of Crowland, also replaced an old Grimme machine with a Variclean. James Woodroffe says: “We have used several manufacturers’ machines but have found the Herbert Variclean particularly robust in the very heavy soil conditions we’re facing this year. In fact, we were able to get the harvest in very quickly this year and have lent the Variclean to neighbouring farms who have been struggling with their cleaners this winter.”
Steven Skipper of Herbert maintains that, with these unexpected weather conditions that affect harvesting as well as growing, growers will need to ensure their machinery can manage as many varied conditions as possible. “We’ve had several relatively dry winters, particularly last year, so the concentration has been on less aggressive cleaners. But 2012 has seen the polar opposite. Both the Variclean and the Coil Cleaner Plus feature fully interchangeable rollers, so we are able to meet the need for more aggressive cleaning for conditions like this year’s or more gentle cleaning when it drier.”
The Variclean offers a choice of spiral roller flight heights, an automated “stuck item” clearing system on clod rollers, individual roller drives for maximum flexibility and control, and an angle adjustable module for a variable cleaning effect.
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Herbert CoilCleaner plus
The highly robust Coil Cleaner Plus moves the crop continuously, separating loose soil, clods and small potatoes from the main crop. It uses a split drive system, which enables every other coil roller to be driven at a different speed, giving a more flexible cleaning action, holding the crop at different intervals to ensure effective cleaning.
Source: Herbert Engineering