The mood might have been dampened by the atrocious weather conditions, but the 10,000 visitors which braved the elements were rewarded by a number of machinery highlights at this year’s Potato Europe.
Steven Vale reports.
Attended by 270 exhibitors and held close to the Dutch town of Emmeloord, the wet weather in the run up to this year’s event resulted in the cancellation of the first of its two show days.
The conditions were not much better the following day, but the must go on.
Visitors were not alone in struggling through the mud. The 30ha site too wet for the dozen trailed potato harvesters on site to strut their stuff, and soon after lunch the working demonstrations of the six self-propelled machines were halted.
The information from the on-board yield monitoring systems fitted to many of the harvesters should have been the culmination of a precision farming project that started at the site a year ago.
However, despite the lack of this important final piece of the jigsaw, there were still plenty of new developments to tuck into.
This is the first season Dutch-firm Ploeger’s self-propelled four-row AR-4BX harvester has been finished in the new yellow and green livery.
A paint job is not the only change, and the latest version features the new Vario by-pass. Previously, the axial rollers were either fully opened or fully closed. Not anymore, because the new system allows the axial rollers to slide in and out below the main web.
Also available for retro-fitting to existing machines, the technique provides stepless control of the position of the axial rollers from the cab, which can be quickly changed to suit conditions.
In addition is a new de-viner belt to remove haulm in trashy conditions.
Ropa’s two-row trailed Keiler 2 potato harvester can now be fitted with the option of a hydraulically-powered axle for increased traction when the going gets tough.
Operated automatically when the harvester is connected to an IsoBus tractor, the hydraulically-driven axle generates a maximum torque of 14,500Nm, and can travel at a maximum forward speed of 14km/hour.
Tested this season on pre-production machines in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, the new option, which is available on 2018 machines and keeps the transport width to three metres on 850/50R 30.5 tyres, costs about £22,300 (€25,000).
An increasing number of potato growers are looking to combine the tasks of cultivating, planting and ridging, which is behind the launch of a new trailed four-row combi-planter from Belgian company AVR.
Called the Ceres 450, and the result of two years of development, a big advantage of the new planter is the possibility to fit cultivator tines up front to take out tractor wheelings. Seed hopper capacity is up to 3.5 tonnes (four 75cm rows) or 4t (four 90cm rows), and power requirement is about 300hp.
Ten pre-production machines were evaluated mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium this season.
Fully available in the UK next season, planter prices start from £47,300 (€53,000), rising to about £80,300 (€90,000) for a full-spec machine with cultivation kit and ridging hoods.
Potato chaser bins continue to increase in popularity, driven largely by the use of ever larger self-propelled harvesters.
Shown as a static prototype at Potato Europe in France last year, where it won the innovation award, Dezeure’s D20 TurboCleaner is now on general release, with two of the first batch of 20 machines expected to arrive in the UK shortly.
Running as standard on tandem axles, the trailer has a 30cu.m (20t) capacity. One of the main features is the possibility to quickly remove the cleaning unit and use it as a normal high-tipping trailer (maximum unloading height 4.5m) for a wide range of crops including cereals, peas and sugar beet.
Prices start from about £89,200 (€100,000). A triple-axle version is also available costing £125,000 (€140,000). The options list for both configurations includes hydraulically-powered axles.
Belgian firm Dewulf brought its new Torro trailed offset two-row harvester to the Dutch event.
It is described as a lightweight (9.8t), stable, high ground clearance machine which can be towed behind a 100hp tractor.
Equipped with two sieving webs, the curved haulm conveyor keeps the fall height to a minimum, while the firm’s patented Inclino Master technology ensures the harvesting unit remains level. Dewulf says this increases productivity and eliminates potato damage, and a quick-change system allows different harvesting kits to be swapped in just 15 minutes.
The speed of both flat hedgehog units can be controlled from the tractor cab, and the picking platform provides space for up to seven people. Bunker capacity can be increased from 5.5-6t, and the harvester, which is available for the 2018 season, is available with an on-the-move unloading option.
Joskin showed a new and easy to fit and remove lightweight watertight covering for its agricultural trailers.
Called Telecover, and available as an option on the Belgian firm’s monocoque tipping and multi-purpose trailers, the cover is opened and closed via two hydraulically-operated articulating arms at the front and rear of the trailer.
Operated from the tractor cab, the cover eliminates the need for someone to climb up the trailer body to manually unwind and secure a cover. The trailer tailgate can also be opened when the cover is closed.
Seed potatoes are a big crop in the Netherlands, where growers spend many hours each season scouring crops for sick or diseased plants.
To do this they sit on dedicated self-propelled and lightweight selection of vehicles, one of which is made by Vlaming.
Called the MPC-4, and offered with two or three seats, and available with 18hp or 25hp three-cylinder Kubota engines, the Dutch manufacturer was looking to gauge visitor interest in an option to swap the four wheels for rubber tracks.
Combining a Vlaming-made frame with Soucy tracks, the result is designed to allow the machine to keep going in less than ideal conditions.
Dutch potato breeding companies, and the increasing number of Dutch potato growers growing their own seed, often work with several varieties in the same row.
The problem with this is once the crop is harvested all the potatoes are quickly mixed. However, help is at hand in the form of a novel design of hydraulically-powered two-row harvester which ensures tubers are placed back on the ground in exactly the same spot they were lifted.
To do this, once potatoes are elevated onto the main web they are kept in place by a series of rubber flaps. Developed by Dutch company Andela, working speeds of the new harvester are between 300-400m/hour.
Two of the roughly £31,200 (€35,000) machines have been sold so far.