HARVEST TOPICS - HARVESTERS
When I was thinking about what to say about harvesters, I decided that I would not show preference for any make or model, but instead try to give some ideas on how to improve the harvester you have or are looking to purchase. Hopefully this will help to return money back to your own pocket. There are many good makes and models of machines out there and the decision on what is best for you may depend on price, parts, and service availability along with optional features available.
Dirt is a major item that you as grower and we as the processor deal with every year. Dirt in the storage pile reduces air movement, creates heat buildup and sugar losses. Dirt is also a costly item to handle. To you as a grower, the cost of hauling, handling and disposing of dirt amounts, on an average, to $5.00 per incoming truck, or $.42 per ton of beets. This dirt eventually enters the factories as the beets are processed. An estimated 240,000 tons of dirt enters the factories each year, and the Nampa factory slicing the same amount in beets, would have to run for 20 days. To remove and dispose of this dirt adds an estimated $420,000 to processing costs. What can we do to cut down on these costs? In a two year study, University of Minnesota and North Dakota State evaluated three 6-row sugar beet harvesters, a WIC, Artsway and a Parma. The results showed no difference between the three machines. What the study did show was that when harvester ground speed was increased, percent tare increased, while yield in tons, recoverable sugar per acre, and gross income per acre decreased. The harvester speeds were 4 and 6 mph the first year of the study and 3 and 5 mph the second year. Yield difference was attributed to more tail breakage and not staying on the row. With the faster ground speeds, more dirt was moved onto the harvester and the beets spent less time cleaning, resulting in the increase in return dirt. Every effort needs to be made to maintain reasonable harvest speeds to reduce the increase in handling of dirt and loss in tonnage.
Other things can have an effect on the increase in return dirt, such as running a harvester too deep or in wet ground. I once had a grower who would run his digger as deep as it would go, resulting in having over 9,000 pounds of dirt on a 20,000 pound load. Plan the last irrigation based on when you plan to harvest the field. The style of cleaning screen can make a difference too. Most harvesters will have either a grabroll system, a rinkbed, or a combination of these, while a few will have a chainbed or a chainbed with some rinks. This last type often results in more dirt being delivered to the station. Grabrolls generally will remove more dirt and trash than any other type of cleaning system. The grabrolls should have good flights or wraps on them. Replace these as they wear out.
A loss of tonnage can be the result of a number of factors. The harvester should be adjusted properly and run at the right PTO speed. Check the owner's manual for the proper adjustments. Are the lifter wheels spaced correctly? Are they on center or are they off an inch or two either way? What about tire size on the tractor? Are you running 16.9s when you should have 14.9s, and are they on the right spacing? Are the lifter wheels worn out or bent? Is the "pinch point" too wide or narrow? Lifter wheels need to be replaced when the outer ring gets worn down or bent. This can also have an effect on the "pinch point", thus not allowing the wheels to lift all of the roots. The pinch point is the area at the back of the lifter wheels where they come together. For smaller beets, the pinch point or gap needs to be narrowed so that all roots are lifted. Worn lifter wheels will have a smaller diameter, thus not allowing the gap to be made smaller. For larger beets, the gap will need to be widened so that you are not cutting or slicing the sides of the beets. This is done by adding spacers to the lifter wheel hubs.
In dry conditions, smaller beets can be lost through the spokes of the lifter wheels. This can be remedied by adding fillers to the lifter wheel. Filler spokes can be bolted to the lifter wheel or by welding small pieces of tubing or ½ inch nuts midway down each spoke and lacing a 1/4 inch cable through them. This will help to carry the beets up to the cleaning screen. I prefer the cable for it does not take as much time to install or replace in the field as conditions change. Losing the equivalent of a single two-pound beet per 10 feet of 22-inch row is about 2.3 tons per acre. It is always best to do what you can to get all of the beets loaded with the harvester versus paying hand labor to glean a field.
Mud scrapers need to be in good working condition. In wet conditions this will help to clear the lifter wheels of excess dirt and mud and allow for less to be carried onto the cleaning screen.
Next take a look at the paddle shaft that is just above the lifter wheels. Are the paddles in good shape or are they bent or worn? These need to be in good condition to properly remove beets from the lifter wheels. Some times adding old beater flails or strips of belting to lengthen the paddle will help to remove smaller beets. Speed of this shaft is important. Too fast will result in plugging with bigger beets while too slow results in not removing smaller beets from the lifter wheels.
After you have loaded your truck you will be sending it to the receiving station to be recorded, weighed, sampled and unloaded. It is important that the truck is identified with the proper contract-field number for it to be recorded correctly. Think of it as sending your paycheck to the bank with your hired help, expecting the bank to know who you are and what your account number is.
On the piling ground, truck drivers need to pay attention to all receiving station personnel for direction or instructions. Self-unloading beds should unload fast enough to keep the piler hopper full to maximize piler capacity and to minimize chips and breakage that will be removed in the return dirt.
Finally, always try to keep the scale house informed to your plans, such as when you are starting or quitting for the day. It's costly for everyone when only a few growers are digging and everyone stops for the day and the scale house is not informed. Plan your harvest so that it does not delay the closing of a station.
In conclusion, we need to slow down harvester speeds, control depth of digging, and make all the proper adjustments. These measures can minimize the loss of roots in the field and the amount of dirt brought in with each load.
Harvest Guidelines for Sugarbeets. The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC.
A Field Comparison of Sugarbeet Harvesters. A. Cattanach, A. Dexter, and D. Kiefer, North Dakota State University.
Harvest Loss Demo. The Sugarbeet Grower. July/August 1997.
Presented at the Snake River Sugarbeet Conference, Twin Falls, Idaho, January 13 and 14, 2000.
Terry Cane, Fieldman, The Amalgamated Sugar Company, PO Box 87, Nampa, Idaho 83653-0087.