Equipment Specs

Potato Harvesting Equipment

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Agricultural Equipment
Antique Potato Harvester
Potato harvesting
can be carried out in several ways. While there is continued use of implements such as spinners and elevator diggers, complete harvesters are most commonly used today. These harvesters are able to lift potatoes out of the ground, and then pass them through various sections of the machine in order to separate them from soil, stones, and other debris.


[edit] History

[edit] The Development of Diggers

Early potato diggers were in the form of spinners, diggers, and potato plows. The harvesting process, though mechanically assisted by the late 1800s, still relied on hand pickers to collect the crops, and continued to do so until the mid-20th century. The first mechanical potato diggers were developed in England in the late 19th century.[1] The first such machines were similar to plows, with a flat share in place of a moldboard, and a row of prongs, angled to bring the potatoes to the surface. Though the English implements had dominated the market when they were developed, three American models eventually surpassed them in popularity. They were the Shaker potato digger, the Boss potato-digging machine, and the Hoover digger.[2]

[edit] The Shaker Potato Digger

The mechanized digger, developed by Deere & Co., was a raising plow with a flat blade that entered a hill under the potatoes. The tubers slid up the blade and fell on the rods hinged at its trailing end. This digger was equipped with a flange wheel that lifted the rods on which the potatoes sat and let them fall, resulting in a shaking action to knock the dirt and debris off the potatoes.

[edit] Boss Potato Digging Machine

Rawson & Thatcher of Corning, New York initially produced this machine in 1885.[3] The Boss was equipped with a set of wheels and a forward-projecting tongue on which a gear was mounted, driving a multi-pronged separating wheel. As the digging machine moved forward, vine tops, soil, and potatoes fell onto the wheel arms; the potatoes were separated from the debris. This machine, driven by one operator and several horses, could dig five acres a day.

[edit] Hoover Digger

The Hoover Digger, produced by Hoover & Prout, Avery Co., was one of the most successful American-made potato diggers at the time of its introduction.[4] This machine had a large forward blade affixed between two heavy iron wheels with a driver’s seat mounted on top of the axle. The forward movement of this digger allowed the shovel to undercut hills, raising potatoes and soil. A slotted elevator then carried the plants upward, shaking out the refuse and debris, conveying the potatoes in a narrow row behind the machine.

[edit] The First Successful Potato Spinners

Though potato spinners were initially developed in the mid-19th century, they were not utilized until three decades later, when they had progressed enough to work without damaging or bruising a crop of potatoes. These machines included a share that passed beneath a crop to loosen crops. Once loosened, rotating forks, either vertical or inclined, were moved through the soil to bring the potatoes to the surface of the earth. By the 1950s, tractor-drawn spinners, driven from the tractor’s power take-off (PTO) or from the machine’s own wheels, were available. These models included a second supplementary spinner to facilitate more efficient crop collection.

[edit] John Deere’s One-row Potato Digger

In the early 1940s, John Deere Co. developed this digger,[5] driven by a tractor’s PTO. This machine was designed to raise potatoes onto an agitating elevator, which loosened clinging soil. The potatoes were then delivered off the back of the machine to be picked manually.

[edit] The Advent of Elevator Diggers

By the end of the Second World War, elevator diggers were becoming popular. These diggers consisted of an inclined share that raised a crop of potatoes onto a chain web, allowing soil and stones to drop. The potatoes were transported backward and through the rear of the machine to be picked manually.

[edit] The First Complete Harvesters

The progression of mechanized harvesting implements culminated in complete potato harvesters. These machines were developed with a greater capacity for soil and debris removal. The cleaner potatoes would then be conveyed directly onto a trailer or bagging platform. By 1950, approximately 500 potato harvesters were in use; a decade later, there were 2500.[6] One of the earliest harvesters was developed by Factor Nilsson of Sweden in 1952.[7] This machine lifted crops with a four-bladed share before depositing them into a sloping drum from which they were dropped onto a side-delivery elevator. Stems and other foliage were ejected at the rear of the machine.

[edit] Features/How it Works/Types

Spinners, elevator diggers, and harvesters have progressed and improved; all three are still in existence today.

[edit] Spinners

The spinners that are available vary in type depending on the working conditions—specifically, soil type. A spinner that can work effectively in light soil may not be suitable for use in heavy, dense soil. Some spinners include a single depth wheel to determine the depth at which all potatoes can be lifted, and others have no wheels at all. Certain spinners are fitted with a screen to facilitate gathering by lessening the scattering of the potatoes. Some of these implements consist of a main vertical spinner and an auxiliary spinner to separate potatoes from haulm and soil. While trailed wheel-driven spinners are commonly used, tractor-driven models are more popular.[8]

[edit] Tractor-driven Spinners

These spinners, using power take-off from the tractor to which it is attached,[9] are widely used due to their maneuverability and ruggedness in adverse soil types. As the tractor on which the spinner is attached moves forward, a digging share runs beneath the row of potatoes, loosening them and the soil encompassing them. Following the loosening process, rotating forks, or tines, strike the row at right angles. Two off-center wheels that are joined by a linkage to which the tines are attached enable the tines to push the potatoes, distributing them sideways, enabling them to be picked up by hand.

[edit] Elevator Diggers

Elevator diggers, available in one- or two-row models, are employed in areas where soil is not too dense or heavy. In wet, sticky soils, operators may opt to use a spinner. These implements are advantageous in that they deposit potatoes completely exposed in a narrow row, easing the task of hand pickers. Elevator diggers, all PTO driven and similar in operation, are available in trailed, semi-mounted, or fully mounted models. Semi-mounted diggers are the most popular;[10] they can lift either one or two rows at a time. These diggers, attached to the linkage arms of a tractor’s hydraulic system, consist of a digging share that cuts beneath the crop of potatoes. In contrast to spinners, elevator diggers raise potatoes to the top of the machine by chain webs. These chain webs consist of straight steel bars linked together with gaps to enable soil and debris to be shaken with adjustable agitation and fall back onto the field. Operators must ensure that agitation is minimal to avoid tuber bruising.[11] Potatoes, traveling over the rear of the digger, are then placed in a narrow row on the field.

[edit] Harvesters

Complete potato harvesters, carrying out a series of tasks in one operation, can be tractor-mounted, self-propelled, or trailed. Those that are trailed are power driven by the tractor to which they are attached. Additional harvester categories include whether the machine is manned or unmanned, and how many rows it can work simultaneously (normally one or two).[12] While simple harvesters resemble side-loading elevator diggers, more complex models include more complex processes including electronic separation mechanisms.

[edit] Harvesters At Work

As harvesters move through rows of potato crops, adjustable steel discs cut any debris or foliage that may block the mouth of the elevator. These discs can be set to cut soil away from the sides of a row’s ridges in order to reduce soil uptake by the elevator.

Harvesters comprise a digging share, fixed in front of the elevator and attached to its frame, which must be set to cut beneath the lowest potatoes. Once the digging share has undercut and loosened the lowest level of potatoes, the soil and crop is moved onto the elevator web. Soil and debris then fall through the chain web, while the potatoes conveyed rearward to the top of the harvester; this is the primary separation process.

Once at the peak of the harvester, the tops of the potatoes are taken off by an elevator with fitted bars, and carried away; the potatoes fall through the web onto another cross-web conveyor, often consisting of rubber-covered bars. They are transferred to two additional web conveyors in order to remove soil before reaching an adjustable separator. This separator, an endless rotating belt, can be lifted or lowered at the end nearest to the potato conveyor. Potatoes roll down the separator toward a potato conveyor, while other flat or rough objects remain on the separator to be transported onto a stone and trash conveyor. Once fully separated, the potatoes are transferred to a loading conveyor of adjustable height, and moved to a trailer traveling alongside the harvester.

[edit] Common Manufacturers

[edit] References

  1. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery: 1630-1930. Krause Publications: 2003.
  2. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery: 1630-1930. Krause Publications: 2003.
  3. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery: 1630-1930. Krause Publications: 2003.
  4. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery: 1630-1930. Krause Publications: 2003.
  5. Brigden, Roy. Harvesting Machinery. Shire Publications: 1989.
  6. Brigden, Roy. Harvesting Machinery. Shire Publications: 1989.
  7. Brigden, Roy. Harvesting Machinery. Shire Publications: 1989.
  8. Shippen, J.M. and Ellin, C.R. and Clover, C.H. Basic Farm Machinery. Pergamon Press: 1980.
  9. Culpin, Claude. Farm Machinery. Granada Publishing Limited: 1981.
  10. Shippen, J.M. and Ellin, C.R. and Clover, C.H. Basic Farm Machinery. Pergamon Press: 1980.
  11. Culpin, Claude. Farm Machinery. Granada Publishing Limited: 1981.
  12. Culpin, Claude. Farm Machinery. Granada Publishing Limited: 1981.