Norfolk leads the field to launch new beet harvester
12:15 16 February 2013
Archant © 2013
Farmers and engineers from northern Europe came to watch a state-of-the-art beet harvester in action on a west Norfolk farm.
The latest six-wheel Holmer Terra Dos, operated by specialist contractors Russell Brothers from Barroway Drove, near Downham Market, was the focus of intensive inspection from almost 200 visitors from France, Belgium and Germany.
Event organiser Alex Mathias, who is sales manager for Standen-Reflex, Ely, was asked to stage the demonstration at Abbey Farm, Flitcham, so that the machine could be in action. “We’re the only country still with beet in the ground so it seemed sensible to bring visitors to Norfolk,” he added.
The new Holmer, which will be available for the 2014/15 beet campaign, has been designed for the progressive contractor looking to lift about 2,500 hectares. With a price tag from about £460,000, Mr Mathias said that new design features would maintain Holmer’s dominance in the global market for beet harvesters.
Despite the cutting wind and near sub-zero temperatures, there was a steady flow of visitors to stand and watch the harvester romp through the beet.
Host farmer Ed Cross was also impressed, although he conceded that one of his last fields was probably not his best. “In fact,” he added, “it looked very poor in June. It is a poor crop compared with last year and the sugars are not anything special.” He had a further six hectares to lift.
Farmers and contractors had travelled from eastern England for the first official opportunity to see the machine at work although it has been lifting beet for contractors Michael and David Russell for the past six weeks across Norfolk.
Mr Mathias said that Holmer wanted their engineers to have an opportunity to check all systems from software, electronic, hydraulic to mechanical.
“And the only way to make sure is to see it working in a range of soils over a number of weeks. I know that Michael Russell has been mightily impressed. He’s told me that it is running rings around his other machines,” said Mr Mathias.
“It is to showcase technology and show we’re moving forward. It is also showing that Holmer is well ahead of any competitors with the technology and it makes all the others look old-fashioned,” he added.
The key features of the machine include the three axles, which ensures excellent stability.
“The centre axle is fixed with elevator mounted over it. The back axle is on hydraulic suspension which ensures that six wheels are always touching the ground,” he added.
The Holmer Terra Dos T4-40 Concept also has a big tank with 40 cubic metre (30-32 tonne) capacity, which will give flexibility for contractors. “Some people will find this machine attractive especially working with the Mouse type of loader because it make this long heaps at the edge of fields,” said Mr Mathias.
And it was running at between 1,100 and 1,200 rpm, which also improved overall fuel economy, which was about 30 to 32 litres per hectare, said Mr Mathias.
“I’m quite excited by this machine because a lot of its elements will be on coming through in the next two or three years in T3 twin-axle successors.”
Other new features on UK machines for next year included the independent lifting and 900mm transfer web and the technology for 40kph road speed will be on machines in two or three years’ time,” he added.
While Holmer makes between 200 and 220 machines a year and has about 50pc of the global market for beet harvesters, it will be making five of the new machines to work around five factories in Germany for next season’s campaign.
Growers have been highlighting the need to reduce harvest losses, as Robert Olsson, of Nordic Beet Research, stressed as the recent British Beet Research Organisation conference at Peterborough. He told farmers that harvest losses in Sweden and Denmark were probably leaving about 4.2t per ha in the field.
Mr Mathias said that the introduction of a new lifter – a completely clean sheet design – had further improved harvesting efficiency. The new HR design had won a silver medal at AgriTechnika for innovation with the HRV (variable) with the ability to adjust to 45cm or 50cm.
And with the ability for working at higher speeds of up to 12 to 15kph, it was possible to clear between 2ha and 2.5ha an hour.