Holmer exxact’s latest sugar beet harvesting and transporting ranges demonstrated
Holmer exxact’s latest sugar beet harvesting and transporting ranges, demonstrated on a farm in Cambridgeshire during late January, attracted visitors from the UK and abroad. David Williams reports.Creating most interest were the latest T4 model harvesters, featuring new engines to meet latest emissions standards and new lifting and cleaning technology. Many visitors were current users of existing T3 and Agrifac machines, keen to try them out and compare their performance.With six large self-propelled harvesters working in one field, the beet carting fleet was under pressure to keep up and host farm, Bartlow Estates, own tractors and trailers were working alongside Holmer’s Terra Variant self-propelled beet chaser wagon and the Fliegl trailer-based Transcart which had been seen for the first time in the UK at Lamma, the week before.The new T4 harvesters in action included the biggest T4-40 with three axles and a 30t capacity tank and the T4-30 with two axles and a 20t capacity tank. Both share the same specification and upgrades over their T3 predecessors. An MTU power unit developing 626 maximum horsepower has replaced the current 520hp engine and uses SCR (Adblue), to meet emissions standards.The largest T4-40 6-wheeled 40t capacity harvester produced high work rates in the sticky conditions, its performance assisted by the new automatic independent row depth control system.The transmission is improved and uses hydraulic drive direct to each axle rather than shaft drive to the front and rear from a centrally mounted gearbox. Removal of the shaft, which ran just under the chassis and just above the cleaning turbines has provided extra space for the cleaning system and allowed the turbine operating angle to be increased for more aggressive cleaning. The central ring trace, which carries beet from the turbines to the hopper, has an increased width for extra capacity and is 1,000mm wide, up from 900mm.The biggest improvement from the operator’s point of view is EasyLift automatic depth control for the lifting shears. The scalper knives are fitted with potentiometers, which measure the operating angle to calculate beet height, and the shears raise and lower to suit.Previously independent control of each of the six lifters was available as an option, but was manual, relying on driver intervention and the new system will reduce reliance on the operator and reduce fatigue during long working days, as well as optimising lifting performance, ensuring the shears are at the ideal position even when wheelings are encountered with beet lower than in neighbouring rows.Wickham Beet Group harvests 3,000 acres of beet annually and operates a Holmer T3 harvester and a Terra Variant self-propelled chaser wagon which was demonstrated at the event. Holmer exxact sales and marketing manager Matt Carse, Wickham Beet Group harvester operator David Cunnell, and Terra-Variant driver Philip Stebbings are pictured (l-r) at the demonstration day.After lifting, the beet pass on to the cleaning table, consisting of three rows of augers which rotate the beet and bring them to the central conveyor trace. The spirals on the new models are deeper for more aggressive cleaning and beet transport performance.Other upgrades include larger diameter wheels and tyres, which have a bigger footprint for reduced ground pressure and provide more space between the front pair for beet being fed from the lifter to the cleaning turbines.David Cunnell operates the beet harvester for Wickham Market Beet Group; a Suffolk farmer-owned and operated beet growing syndicate, which harvests approximately 3,000 acres of beet for its own members with one Holmer T3 self-propelled machine, its fifth from the company.The first T1 was bought in 1998, followed by aT2 and three T3’s. David had been trying out the new T4-30 machine during the week before the demonstration and was due to try the larger T4-40 during the week after. “We noticed immediately the extra power of the engine which we see as an advantage, and the automatic depth control made the new model much easier and less tiring to operate,” he said. It is more accurate than the manual control which we have on our current machine.Other advantages are the extension available on the unloading elevator which means we can reach further across our trailers and beet chaser wagon to make the most of their capacity and the faster 40kph road speed which allows it to keep up with our self-propelled Holmer Variant chaser wagon between jobs – our current harvester will only do 32kph. We have been very impressed with the upgrades and believe the T4 version would suit us well.”Very wet muddy working conditions and the sticky land provided an excellent opportunity for visitors to compare the in-field transport systems in action. The advantages of the two Holmer exxact chaser wagons over conventional trailers, particularly for unloading on to field-edge heaps for loading by self-propelled cleaner loaders, were obvious as their side unloading created no wheel ruts in line with the heap, for beet to fall into and which would cause problems for the cleaner-loader pick-up later.
The Terra-Variant is owned and operated by Wickham beet.The new Fliegl trailer-mounted Holmer beet chaser wagon discharges from the side making it ideal for use with Maus heaps.”The latest model with its 21t capacity was purchased in 2013 so is in its second season and it replaced an earlier version which had been operated for two years,” explained operator Philip Stebbings. “Being owned by the farmers whose crop we lift and on whose land we operate, there was an awareness of the damage that could be caused to the soil by beet carting operations, particularly in a wet season, and with some of our beet land also used to grow vegetables, this was quite an issue.Certainly the Terra Variants have been a success and we have seen the benefits in terms of reduced damage to the land, but we are also aware of our responsibility to keep roads clean and to haul beet safely, and these in-field machines allow us to considerably reduce our road transport. Where possible we load direct into lorries – an advantage of the unloading system over conventional trailers.”We are also operating more efficiently as the chaser can usually keep the harvester moving, where we needed two tractors and trailers previously. Leaving the fields more level means ploughing and following cultivations are easier too,” he said.