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Shelbourne stripper front demonstration shows good results in light crops

21st December 2015

Credit: The Weekly Times

USING a Shelbourne Reynolds combine harvester stripper front in grain is getting some interest among no-till farmers in light northern Victoria crops, but the jury’s out in wetter country.

The front was used in 4.5-tonne-per-acre wheat at Streatham in Victoria’s western districts and quickly stripped the crop, leaving behind tall, dense stubble.

It was part of a series of demonstrations organised by Vic No-Till, which is investigating the benefits of the front.

“There’s no doubting it does the job in getting off the crop, but it’s managing the paddock afterwards,” said Streatham property owner Scott Blurton.

“Getting warmth and sun down to where the plants come through could be an issue.

“We’d be inter-row sowing through it with a disc seeder. Not too sure what we’d sow, but maybe faba beans.

“They grow close to the ground and are hard to harvest, but maybe they’ll climb up this stubble a bit more and make it easier.” He said however, the reduced amount of chaff and residue left on the ground was a plus for the system, a sentiment echoed by Vic No-Till executive officer Kerry Grigg. “It leaves the entire length of stubble so there’s no chaff,” Ms Grigg said. “In a higher rainfall zone the chaff is creating a haven for slugs.”

She added that the biology created in well-established no-till systems quickly ate through the stubble, so having taller stubble was a benefit.

She said the front would work best in less dense crops, but said farmers in NSW and northern Victoria were “excited” by the results.

“One farmer was saying that he could finish harvest two or three weeks earlier than he normally would and could then go out contracting,” she said.

The reason for the speed is the way the front harvests the crop.

“They’re a simple machine that uses a combing action to pull the crop off with the fingers attached to a rotor,” said Myles O’Kane from Shelbourne distributor Hutcheon & Pearce. Mr O’Kane was enlisted by Vic No Till to demonstrate the front.

“You’re only pulling off the heads and leaving the straw behind and that’s fitting in with no-till and controlled traffic operations.”

He said because it was processing less straw, the harvester could operate much quicker and use less fuel.

“We’re seeing an uptake in them in the cereal industry in Australia,” he said.

“We haven’t seen anyone sowing into it yet, but we’re hoping to see farmers using disc planters to sow through the straw.

“There’s a pretty heavy straw load here (at Streatham) so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes,” Mr O’Kane said.

“But up around central NSW and northern Victoria the straw loads are a lot lower so hopefully they’ll be able to direct plant into them and use the residue and biomass to grow their crop for next year.”

The UK-made Shelbourne stripper fronts are not new and have been working in Australian rice fields for some time. They have also been used in grain in other countries and Mr O’Kane said they could be fitted to nearly every harvester and were cost effective enough to add to the equipment list rather than replace an existing front.

“You’re looking at about $110,000 for the front, which is a lot cheaper than a draper front, but you couldn’t just have it on its own,” he said. “You’d have another front for other crops.”

Stripper fronts have been around since the mid-1980s as a derivative of a pea harvester, with the Shelbourne Reynolds front fitted with eight rows of stripping fingers on a backward-spinning rotor. The grain is transferred back into an auger that feeds it into the combine’s feederhouse.

By that stage 85 per cent of the chaff and residue has already been threshed, meaning the combine’s threshing system has less work to do.

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