Said to offer a 20 per cent increase in capacity and a 5 per cent increase in bale density, James Rickard puts New Holland’s latest variable chamber round baler to the test.
A 20 percent increase in capacity is a fair old claim from New Holland regarding its new range of Roll Belt round balers. To find out if it was justified we tasked one with baling winter wheat straw following a 9.1 metre (30 feet) cut combine.
The variable chamber balers are offered in two sizes. The Roll Belt 150 produces bales from 900mm in diameter up to 1,500mm, while the Roll Belt 180 is capable of bales from 900mm to 1,800mm. They replace the BR 7060 and BR 7070 respectively.
Each model can also be specced with either Crop Cutter or Super Feed systems.
Crop Cutter comes with a bank of 15 knives, offering a theoretical chop length of 65mm. Knives can also be hydraulically retracted in case of blockage or should the user wish not to chop. Super Feed comes fitted with a rotor specifically designed just for feeding the chamber with no chop.
Key to the large claim in capacity comes from the re-designed pick-up, which takes many design cues from the firm’s range of large square balers. For instance, the number of tine bars has been raised to five, which are now solid, as opposed to tubular.
Tines are also fatter (6mm) and are rubber mounted for better performance over coil tines and with less play, wear and tear is reduced.
Heavy duty cam tracks feature more meaty bearings and the central pick-up rotor has also increased in diameter.
The manufacturer has not been tempted to make a cam-less pick-up reel as it says the cam track system gives superior crop flow and can handle shorter crops better.
As standard, the pick-up is fitted with a roller windguard to improve crop flow and two stub augers to deliver the crop to the feed rotor.
The stub augers have been mounted lower so material hits them head on for better flow.
Mounted above these is a ‘feed assist’ rotor, which features auger flights at either end. This also aids crop flow to the feed rotor by maintaining crop velocity and preventing the forward throwing effect often seen in shorter crops.
In our test using a Roll Belt 150 Super Feed, pulled by a 121hp (154hp when boosted) New Holland T6.150, it was a relatively easy ride for the baler, but it did show off the improved crop flow thanks to the large, fluffy windrows left by the combine.
Forward speed was definitely greater compared to the old BRs. We are not sure if it was as high as the manufacturer’s claims, but we were comfortably travelling at 15kph. The main limiting factor was the tractor’s power, as it tended to die back on hills. We reckon with a few more gee-gees, forward speed could have been upped a bit, but more importantly we could have achieved a more consistent speed.
The 5 per cent increase in bale density is mostly due to an optional second bale density cylinder. A single cylinder can provide up to 179bar (2,600psi) of pressure, or 276bar (4,000psi) of pressure can be applied using two, 138bar (2,000psi) cylinders. Bale pressure can be manually adjusted via a tap on the cylinders.
While the baling principal remains the same, using four formation rollers with the top three sprung-loaded to form the core, all the rollers have been strengthened with a double wall construction. The number of belts has also reduced from six to four and they are now thicker and endless. They have also been designed to be self cleaning and have more grip.
Proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating, and the bales produced certainly looked the part. Well formed and with a good even shape, a scientific kick and a punch revealed a solid core. Over the weighbridge they were, on average, about 350kg. Wrapping was also neat, applied consistently over the edge of the bale.
Cycle times were pretty swift too, thanks to a fast acting tail gate. When applying two-and-a-half layers of net, it took about 38 seconds from start of wrap to the door closing. Also, the baler’s front guard features holes in it, which gives peace of mind as you can see it wrapping.
The twisty nature of the field highlighted the baler’s manoeuvrability - helped, in part, by an uncluttered drawbar, which provided good views to the pick-up.
If compatible, baler control can either be via a tractor’s IsoBus system or by the baler’s own Bale Command 2 control box. We had the latter, which is now more compact but features a bigger LCD screen and larger buttons.
Functions remain the same as its predecessor, but more settings are available, such as bale diameter, number of net layers and when the automatic wrapping process will start.
Also, when the bale gets 100mm from the set diameter you get an audio warning. Once the full diameter is achieved, you get another warning, at which point you stop and the wrapping process automatically begins - or you can do the whole process manually.
Key to the baler's capacity increase is the re-designed pickup.
Net can now be loaded standing on the floor.
As for the pick-up reel and tailgate, these are simply operated via hydraulic services.
In case of blockage, a drop floor can be hydraulically lowered and the rotor re-engaged to clear the blockage. To aid this, the tension on the belts is released when the floor is dropped.
As well as improved crop flow and increased density, the manufacturer says all the updates contribute to increased durability. It is easy to see why too; the whole baler just seems a lot beefier.
Considering all of the updates and heavier duty components, baler weight is only up by 175kg compared to its equivalent predecessor.
Other updates include styling changes to make it more rounded and one-piece fibre glass side panels to make it more maintenance friendly.
The netting system has been given an overhaul. Instead of the cam-track system used previously, it uses two individual electric motors - one for driving the duck bill and one for cutting.
The firm says the motors have a low power requirement and can be run off the tractor’s 12V power supply, rather than rigging up a wiring loom to the battery. This is good if you are swapping the baler between tractors.
Net storage has been made more convenient with an easier to access compartment at the front and one at the rear. Loading an ‘active’ roll is simpler due to a fold out bar onto which the roll can slide. Significantly, this can be done standing on the ground. The position of the net roll is closer to the bale chamber, which results in faster wrapping and, in theory, makes it less prone to tangling.
Two options of pick-up following wheels are available - castor or fixed. Castor wheels come as standard, can be folded for transport to within the width of the baler’s wheels via the removal of a pin, are height adjustable and are set out wide when working to avoid crop dragging. However, watch out for them dropping down tramlines.
Alternatively, you can opt for the lower spec and simpler non-castor wheels, which can be removed for transport.
Despite dying back a bit on hills, our 150hp tractor did manage the baler well, but like all things, a few more horses would have been nice to get the most out of the baler.
Most impressive were the improvements to crop flow. Knowing the baler can handle even the most challenging of windrows gives you plenty of confidence to knock on, helped also by the solid construction.
Simple operation is the cherry on the icing, and being able to safely stand on the floor to load net wrap is a big bonus.