Host Jason Fischbach is on site with UW-Madison researchers Dave Bohnhoff and Scott Sanford testing mechanical harvesters on hedgerows of hybrid hazelnut shrubs. Is mechanical harvest of hazelnuts possible? Listen in.
Recorded Sept 16, 2020
Paul Ronsheim, Dave Bohnhoff, Scott Sanford, Erik Hagen, Michelle Manske, Scott Brainard, Jason Fischbach, Chuck Zinda
Jason Fischbach 00:00
This is a podcast about new crops. You’re gonna love it. Join us on The Cutting Edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin. (music) Welcome to The Cutting Edge, a podcast in search of new crops for Wisconsin. Today is a field notes episode and the focus is on mechanical harvesting of hazelnuts. Hope you enjoy it. Welcome, this is Jason Fischbach. I’m the agriculture agent Ashland-Bayfield counties with UW Extension and today we’re in southern Wisconsin. On Paul Ronsheim’s farm, evaluating two candidate hazelnut harvesting units. Ones an olive harvester, one is a blueberry harvester. In most hazelnut production regions, hazelnuts are either swept or vacuumed up off the orchard floor and we’re going to try something different here in the Midwest, the nuts don’t readily fall out of the clusters. Plus, with all the rain we get in the fall and the desire to have more vegetation on the orchard floor. We would prefer to harvest these directly from the shrub which is what we’re going to try to do with these straddle harvesters. Let’s see if we can find our host Paul and see what he’s thinking about all these harvesting options. Paul, what’s the farm name?
Paul Ronsheim 01:29
Blue Mound Hazelnuts.
JASON FISCHBACH 01:31
And where are we in Wisconsin?
Paul Ronsheim 01:33
We’re six miles south of Barneveld near Dodgeville.
JASON FISCHBACH 01:37
Gotcha. So I’m looking out across the planting here. About how many acres? How many plants?
Paul Ronsheim 01:41
About 2000 plants, six acres.
JASON FISCHBACH 01:44
Gotcha. Have you ever hand harvested these things? The whole thing?
Paul Ronsheim 01:47
Yes, it took several weeks.
JASON FISCHBACH 01:50
Gotcha. I bet you’re glad to see these two big harvesting units sitting in your front driveway here.
Paul Ronsheim 01:54
You bet, this is a thrill.
JASON FISCHBACH 01:57
Yeah, so we’ve got two harvesting units that we’re going to trial today. One we call big blue, which is actually a modified olive harvester. And the other one we call Mr. Rotary, which is a totally we haven’t done anything changed it. It is a blueberry harvester that uses rotors to or vibrating rotors to harvest the berries. So we’ll see if it works on the hazelnuts. We’re just waiting for them to get everything set up. So Paul, what are you looking for today when you see these harvesters go through your your plants.
Paul Ronsheim 02:28
I look for them to remove at least 40% maybe 50% of the ripe nuts. That’s right at my target right now what I hope to see. These plants, this planting is from seeds. So the ripening is over a three week interval. So it makes it difficult to get everything in one pass.
JASON FISCHBACH 02:47
And last year we came out here and I’d say we probably harvested too early. This year it seems like we might even be on the side of too late or do you think we’re on target here?
Paul Ronsheim 02:57
I think you’re on a sweet spot. Things are really ripe. There’s only a few that are still hanging on. And yet, not a lot has dropped. So I think it’s a good time for a machine to come through.
JASON FISCHBACH 03:08
Gotcha as they’ve ripened, have you seen blue jays and squirrels and everybody else stealing nuts or are you out in the middle of the field enough that you’ve got some protection?
Paul Ronsheim 03:17
Blue Jays are the main problem right now that and raccoons I think.
JASON FISCHBACH 03:22
So we’re gonna go wander over and find Dave Bohnhoff and Scott Sanford the brains and brawn behind today’s trials. But first we have some observers today. Let’s find out who they are. Michelle, who are you? And why are you here?
Michelle Manske 03:37
I’m Michelle Manske. I work for the Savannah Institute as the event coordinator, and I’m here to take pictures for social media and just to support the other staff.
JASON FISCHBACH 03:46
Have you ever seen hazelnut mechanical harvesting before?
Michelle Manske 03:49
I haven’t, I’m super excited. I’ve been waiting for this for weeks, months, maybe?
JASON FISCHBACH 03:53
Yeah, we’ve been waiting for years. We’re excited for this big blue because it’s it’s huge. And it’s novel and it should be fast. So Chuck, who are you and why are you here?
Chuck Zinda 04:01
I’m Chuck Zinda, I’m a landowner maybe 11 miles north of here and I have some hazelnuts, hazelnut crops but they a, don’t look as good as this. (laughs)
JASON FISCHBACH 04:11
I noticed you were out hand harvesting today. Is that something you want to do long term you think are you looking at one of these harvesters?
Chuck Zinda 04:20
Well, I think a mechanical harvester would be the way to go. We tried hand harvesting last year and only did about half.
JASON FISCHBACH 04:28
Okay, I’m wandering over here to where the action is for the big harvesters are and see boxes of oily rags and some banging going on there and some hydraulic fluid containers,lowboy trailer. So first, let’s let’s talk to Dave here. Dave Bohnhoff, who are you and why are you here?
Dave Bohnhoff 04:48
Dave Bohnhoff, I’m an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison and I’m here to run some experiments with some mechanical harvesters experiments on removing Green clusters from hazelnut bushes.
JASON FISCHBACH 05:03
So the listeners can’t see this behemoth. But I noticed the guy that drove by with a huge combine kind of looked at this machine with some jealousy because this thing was so awesome. What are we looking at?
Dave Bohnhoff 05:14
You’re looking at a Oxbow Olive harvester. And if you want to check one out online, Google Oxbow 6340. And you’ll get a good appreciation for what this machine is. This is the first one in that series, the prototype. And it’s pretty much like the one that is commercially available, we did add a small bin to it for collecting our samples during our test runs today. Other than that, it’s just a different color than what you’d see online.
JASON FISCHBACH 05:46
Do you have dimensions height, width weight on this thing?
Dave Bohnhoff 05:49
I think it’s 12 foot wide, and boy, I’m gonna guess it’s 20 foot long. Height wise. It’s probably about 16 feet high I would say as it sits there, which means that we have to do special things to move it over the highway. And this transition that we’re going through right now takes us about an hour and that is to get it from that transport mode into harvest mode and then involves actually moving the cab up about three feet. It moves up on some rails rails that we have to remove to do our harvest work. So yeah.
JASON FISCHBACH 06:23
I noticed some sweating and swearing over here. Is it going okay?
Dave Bohnhoff 06:25
Oh, no, I’m not swearing. Scott was maybe a little bit.
JASON FISCHBACH 06:32
All in all I think it’s looking pretty good I think.
Dave Bohnhoff 06:33
Yeah, we’ll be ready to go shortly.
JASON FISCHBACH 06:35
How about that bucket of bolts across the way? What’s that thing?
Dave Bohnhoff 06:37
Yeah, that’s a BEI, which stands for Blueberry Equipment Incorporated, I believe, a company that’s now defunct, that was in Michigan and they built an array of blueberry harvesters through the years. This one is several models removed from their demise, actually. And it does work quite well for harvesting Hazel’s and we have three of them in operation just in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
JASON FISCHBACH 07:06
Now this one’s a little different because it’s a rotary sway bar.
Dave Bohnhoff 07:09
Yes, right, right, right. It has rotating wheels, I guess, rotating wheels with the rims removed. If you want to think about it, spokes, you can picture that rotating bicycle wheel without the rims. Anyhow, those spokes move into the into the crop. And they also vibrate back and forth as they rotate as those wheels spin. And that’s what vibrates the crop and hopefully removes the clusters from the plant.
JASON FISCHBACH 07:37
So when we get out there today, what are you hoping to see on the harvesting?
Dave Bohnhoff 07:42
Well, I don’t think we’ll see too much more than we’ve seen in the past. And that is actually fairly efficient removal of clusters. The drier they are, the easier they are to remove. We can adjust different machines to be more aggressive and remove basically every cluster that’s on that plant. But when we do that, we also end up removing other things we don’t want to remove like catkins, perhaps a few more leaves. Not that that’s an issue this time of year.
JASON FISCHBACH 08:15
And how many gallons of hydraulic fluid do you usually like to spray on out there?
Dave Bohnhoff 08:19
Yes, yes, yes, we have went to gallons. Actually, earlier in the week, we had a hose break on Big Blue here, the other harvester and that went through five gallons in about snap your fingers. And that right there is about 120 bucks for people that are into purchasing hydraulic fluid. So yeah, it gets costly.
JASON FISCHBACH 08:41
It’s part of the game. That usually doesn’t happen but that’s part of mechanical harvesting and big equipment is big repairs and expensive stuff.
Scott Sanford 08:52
I’m Scott Sanford, I’m with University of Wisconsin. I’m an outreach specialist working in energy and and alternative crops.
JASON FISCHBACH 09:02
Awesome so the Big Blue is kind of your baby huh? You’ve got this thing tuned up and going, are you excited to run it?
Scott Sanford 09:09
Yeah, no, I hope not to get another oil bath. But yes, it’s been a lot of work. It was a machine that had been been neglected and we’ve brought it back to life.
JASON FISCHBACH 09:21
Yeah, this is awesome. So you ran it at Stoughton already. What did you think? Are you pleased with it?
Scott Sanford 09:27
Yeah, it seemed to do a good job. You know, that was our first trial so it’s hard to tell percentage of nuts it’s gonna take off versus moisture content. But did a fairly good job especially at slow speeds and high thrashing rate.
JASON FISCHBACH 09:47
Okay, much damage to the stems?
Scott Sanford 09:49
Only if the crop itself or the base is too wide. If the base is over two foot wide or or there abouts you end up running over some of it.
JASON FISCHBACH 09:59
Okay. Some more damage just because the plant was too wide and ran it over then actually shaking the stems and breaking stems?
Scott Sanford 10:04
Yeah, it didn’t seem to be a lot of breakage in the stems. We got a lot of old wood off in some cases. Yeah. But no it didn’t. Didn’t seem to affect the stem. So we took a lot of leaves off and catkins too.
JASON FISCHBACH 10:19
Right, yeah. All right, we’re standing right next to big blue. And this thing is huge. So in the tunnel. So this thing is a straddle harvester, it goes right over the top of the hazelnut row. And it’s probably Oh, David, how tall are you six feet? We got another four feet on top of that? Three, at least. Yeah, nine to ten feet tall this tunnel. So we can handle plants at least that tall. And then we can raise the whole unit up another two or three feet. So we could probably accommodate 12 foot plants without a problem. Probably even taller. All right, we got big blue fired up. So the basic function of this thing is it straddles the row. And there are beaters inside bars that shake back and forth. So they jostle the plant as it goes through it. And the idea is to generate enough force to shake the clusters right off the plant, but not too much force that you break, break the stems. Now the advantage of these hybrid hazelnuts, because their shrubs, and those stems are really flexible, so you get pretty good, you can apply a lot of force without causing a lot of damage. So the nuts fly off, and they get on these catch plates at the bottom of the unit. And that’s on an angle and that they slide to either side of the unit, and then get moved with these bucket conveyors up into the across the fan to get rid of the leaves and stuff. And then they go through into a collection bin. So that’s the basic idea. Pretty straightforward. Well, this is exciting. I’m sitting in the jump seat of the cab. We’re making our first run down the road here. Scott Sanford’s the operator. I’m just along for the ride. See how this thing goes. I’m about 15 feet up in the air here on top of this thing. And here the units firing up. So nice bird’s eye view, I can see over the whole planting. Now the tricky part is driving this, you can’t really see how wide these things are. So he’s trying not to run stuff over. Well, we’re rolling along here, nuts are flying off, which is good. And the only thing I hope is we don’t hit a hornet’s nest or we’re all in trouble. Alright, on this next row, we’re going at two miles an hour, which is pretty fast and I’m walking pretty fast to keep up with this harvesting unit. Again, because time is money when it comes to this expensive equipment. You got to be able to go as fast as you can. And that’s part of our research project is just how fast can we push… Dave, what happened out there?
Dave Bohnhoff 12:48
The machine’s self leveling ran the whole platform down into the ground. And basically the machine started acting like a plow. So I didn’t want to move forward anymore.
JASON FISCHBACH 13:02
No harm in it falling off?
Dave Bohnhoff 13:03
No, no, it took off itself. Levelling is generally levelling off.
JASON FISCHBACH 13:09
So Paul, you’ve seen this in action one row seems like it’s exceeding your 40% rule. Are you Are you pleased so far?
Paul Ronsheim 13:15
Yes. It seems to be really taking the nuts, they’re quite ripe. So it’s the perfect time to test this. And they seem to be coming off really well. So..
JASON FISCHBACH 13:24
Are you okay with the amount of plant damage, doesn’t seem like too much?
Paul Ronsheim 13:28
It seems comparable to the BEI or even better.
JASON FISCHBACH 13:33
David, what do you think about all this?
Dave Bohnhoff 13:35
It’s amazing how fast it works to harvest all that how many nuts come in off a 100 foot row.
JASON FISCHBACH 13:43
Yeah, right on, it looks like these bins are actually pretty clean, not too much leaf or stick material, which is good. So it should make them easier to dry down and clean. Okay, we’ll let those guys do their business here running the machines. We’ve got a couple other bystanders here. See what they think about all this stuff. So, Eric, who are you and why are you here?
Erik Hagen 14:10
I’m Erik Hagen, I’m with the Savannah Institute, the farm director. And I’m here to check out the hazelnut harvest. What do you mean farm director? Well, Savannah Institute’s buying a home farm and where we’ll be producing at scale a number of different agroforestry systems and crops tree crops. And I’ll be the farm manager for that site.
JASON FISCHBACH 14:34
That’s awesome. So is this your first time seeing hazelnut harvesting in action?
Erik Hagen 14:38
It actually is for for machine harvesting. Yeah.
JASON FISCHBACH 14:42
What do you think?
Erik Hagen 14:43
Pretty awesome. Let’s do it.
JASON FISCHBACH 14:45
That’s what I like to hear. Yeah, so far, so good. We’re using the BEI now to clean up the first row as part of our experimental design. And we’re not getting anything off because the B, or the Oxbow removed pretty much all of it already. Hey Scott, what’s a, what’s your name? Why are you here? What do you do?
Scott Brainard 15:08
My name’s Scott Brainerd. I am a tree crop analyst with Savannah Institute. And I am here at Paul Ronsheim’s to witness this incredible mechanized harvesting operation. The price of admission today is that you have to have hand harvested hazelnuts at some point in your life. Have you done that? Maybe today even? Yeah, just came from handpicking a whole bunch of American hazelnuts about 20 minutes north of here. And so this is great. You just sit back and watch these enormous machines do the work. Awesome. So far, so good. Both machines have got their pros and cons. I like the action on this BEI with those rotary harvesters. But the discharge on it is kind of slow. It just doesn’t have the same capacity to handle the volume as the the Oxbow but for the price, it seems like a pretty effective machine. So Dave, we’re a few rows in. Any thoughts?
Dave Bohnhoff 16:10
Yeah, Jason’s not doing his job. I think we got a can him. Send him back to Ashland.
JASON FISCHBACH 16:16
What do you mean? I’m holding a clipboard?
Dave Bohnhoff 16:19
That’s good. Yeah, I forgot you’re in charge. That’s good. We do need somebody to head us up or we’re kind of lost. No, I, it looks like both machines are performing. We’ll see how well this BEI does when we send it down the row before we harvest with Corvin machine, the big blue machine. Right now, it looks like the big blue machine is is cleaning this stuff pretty clean, uh picking it pretty clean. And we’re not getting a lot of stuff on the second pass with the BEI machine. But we’re just getting started, so…
JASON FISCHBACH 16:56
All right. Definitely one downside of these BEI harvesters is you’ve got the rear discharge on both sides. And you’re feeding out of the chutes into bins. In your bins, typically, there’s not a lot of room for capacity there. So you’re offloading quite often versus the big Oxbow unit, you’ve got a continuous feed conveyor that can feed into a trailer towing behind or off to the side. So you can really fly without a whole lot of messing around between between bins. Okay, it’s been a good day, and things went well. So we’ll give these guys a chance to recover. And about a week or so we’ll come back and get Dave and Scott’s impressions on how things went this year. Scott and Dave, it was a whirlwind of days and nights for you guys to get these machines up and running and run these trials. It’s been almost a week now, how are you feeling?
Scott Sanford 17:53
Good. We got it done. Haven’t really, spilled too many oil, much oil and we uh got nuts in the shed.
JASON FISCHBACH 18:02
So what I thought here now that we’ve done some harvesting for two years is just kind of gets your initial thoughts or reflections on each of these different harvesting units. So maybe we can start with the aronia harvester with the name I can’t pronounce. So what was that thing we use a couple of years ago? So my sense was it’s just undersized for hazelnuts, is that generally the issue with that one?
Scott Sanford 18:26
Well, I think there I think there are two issues. One, it’s a half row unit. So you’re splitting the row in half. You’re bending the plants over quite a bit and he’s the your stems, that in Stoughton anyway, are pretty good size in some cases. And we were, it’s very aggressive, it cleaned all the nuts off. So that’s a plus for it. We also took a lot of catkins and leaves off. We didn’t have time to really play with it a lot, because we just had it for one day. And we lost a lot of nuts out the front. A lot of the nuts fell before they even got into the machine. And so you had to go down each row twice.
JASON FISCHBACH 19:10
Plus it’s slow to start with. Yeah. You got to go slow. and it’s Yeah, yep. It seems like with all the different units, we’ve tried that that one’s just not gonna rise to the top. Right. I mean, it’s a pull pull behind unit, which is nice because it may be cheaper than a self propelled but it still just seems too slow and too under too aggressive.
Scott Sanford 19:30
Yeah, and that that machine was about $50,000 new, you can’t buy really any used ones. And you can buy probably a good used blueberry picker for that kind of money.
JASON FISCHBACH 19:43
Scott Sanford 19:44
And so, other one, and it’s, and that’ll do the whole row at one, one time it’s over over the row, full row.
Dave Bohnhoff 19:54
Its configuration really doesn’t lend itself to larger shrubs. It’s just a matter of which it has to bend them over. And a orientation of the head relative to that crop when it’s bent, just doesn’t allow for bigger stuff. But one advantage of the pull type units, and any pull type unit in the future even self propelled machine is, would be having that operator to driver down closer to ground level, where you can see the base of the bush being fed into the machine. So as we look at harvesters in general, down the road, and perhaps design was special harvest, I think that’s an essential part of the hazelnut harvester is that the operator is right down at ground level.
JASON FISCHBACH 20:47
Especially with shrubs where you just can’t see like the base of a trunk like you would on a tree.
Dave Bohnhoff 20:52
Yeah, you’re you’re lost. And Scott can speak to that.
Scott Sanford 20:55
So yes, when bushes are way too big, they’re not going to harvest very well, in any kind of harvester. A typical what we’re classifying is what we’re looking for is something no bigger than eight foot tall and six foot around, you can pretty much see where the bases from either machine you’re kind of going by the canopy in assuming that the canopy is is uniform both ways. I think the bigger problem is some of our shrubs have bases that are 16, 18, sometimes two feet in diameter.
Dave Bohnhoff 21:36
Well we had them up, we had them up to four feet at Stoughton. Right. We were laying down a foot on each side.
Scott Sanford 21:46
Yeah, so if the truck gets too wide, our our throat of the machine is is 18 to 24 inches, I think something like that.
JASON FISCHBACH 21:57
Yeah, so both BEI’s and the Oxbow it’s basically that the width of that plant at the base really can’t be more than 18 inches, it seems like. Even narrower probably.
Scott Sanford 22:08
Yeah, you’re better cuz then you got the driver has some leeway as to which way to go.
Dave Bohnhoff 22:15
Also understand we never ran the Oxbow unit or the Corvin unit, Big Blue, never ran it near to its full height. And that’s because we needed to keep it down to the ground to be able to gather the crop. Now if there was a single stem, we could move that harvester up a couple feet, which would move our picking head up a couple feet, and therefore we’d be able to harvest higher taller crops.
JASON FISCHBACH 22:39
Well, let’s go through each of these other three units. So the slapper type BEIs, there’s a couple of them being used in the Midwest right now. And you guys had the opportunity to use one down in Southwest Wisconsin. What do you think? I mean, those seem like the most available and cheapest units out there? Are they good enough? Or what’s your what’s your take?
Scott Sanford 22:58
I’m a little im… Well, I think they’re not as aggressive. They will probably do fine with ripe crop. If it’s, if it’s, you know, ready to fall, if you’re, it’s the kind of crop you’re going to touch and it’s going to fall to the ground. The challenge, I think is for some of these big shrubs, once you get them in the machine, the fingers don’t have enough strength to actually move the bush much. And I was seeing lots of drop before the before the bush ever got in the machine because it bends the top of the machine down or top of the bush down. And it starts shaking before it ever gets into the machine. So we’re losing nuts on the ground right in front of the machine before it was coming in.
Dave Bohnhoff 23:43
And, and that’s going to be true with almost any of the harvesters. The BEI rotary is probably better because the rotary is toward the back and not probably not as aggressive until it gets right to the fingers. But that’s one thing I did notice and we broke fingers off even a brand new finger on that slapper unit just because the bushes are so big, the arm has a set range of motion. And the nylon finger is the only thing that can move and it’s basically bent and snapped off a brand new finger. I think we lost five fingers in one evening.
Scott Sanford 24:25
I would tell you that all the harvesters did fairly well, in my opinion in terms of their ability to take off clusters. I think some of the numbers are going to show that but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be improvements to all these picking heads. As a matter of fact, I think you can be a lot more aggressive. Most of these harvesters are designed they handle berries that can’t take a lot of abuse. So if the catch systems the the shaking systems are all designed to be a little you know more tender with the crop. Let’s put it that way. And I think we can be a little bit more forceful. There’s other ways to make picking heads that I think you’ll probably see in a harvester that was designed specifically for this crop. But that that’s what we’re learning. I think that’s a big thing. A big takeaway of all this, as we watch these different heads work, we know what their shortcomings are, we know what the crop demands, we’ll be able to design, you know, for that need.
JASON FISCHBACH 25:30
So what’s your take on the rotary unit, having run that for two years, to me watching the plants come out the back end on that thing? It seems like a better action where it’s it’s getting this it’s delivering the force to nap those clusters off, but it’s not swaying the branches around as much as the slapper type is. So maybe less damage, but I don’t know what what’s your take?
Scott Sanford 25:51
Yeah, plant damage. I don’t know that there’s much, though, the plant damage I saw for the most part was where I ran it over because it was too big or I wasn’t lined up centered on the row. It’s not to say that there wasn’t some damage, it just it’s not real extensive with, you know, broken branches and stuff. Biggest challenge, I think, with both of the both the BEI units is they can’t handle the amount of twigs and leaves that we get off. There’s just the cleaning end of it, you can do about a half mile an hour, three quarters a mile an hour. And if you get above that the cleaning system on the backside can’t keep up with the unit. I know the one test we’re going over two miles an hour with a BEI. And the guys in the back were just gone. They couldn’t keep up. And nuts going, nuts and branches going all over the place. Dave can attest to that, because he was in the back.
Dave Bohnhoff 26:46
Yeah, I would just point out that you can definitely move with all machines, you can move down the row at a pretty good speed. That’s not a problem. We can knock the nuts off. But it’s just in the BEI machines, the buckets. Well, it doesn’t have buckets, it really has a conveyor that’s doesn’t have very high paddles, if you want to call them that. And it’s too steep, I think some of the elevators so you got material that’s rolling back down. There’s a number of shortcomings. But again, that’s not something that we’d ever worry about, or even need to deal with, in a machine that we would design down the road. And one thing we do also, he mentioned sticks, and I don’t think a lot of people realize this because they’re hand harvesting. But when you use a harvester like this, you’re knocking off a lot of very short twigs, the older your bushes get, the more that you get. And one of the problems we’ll have down the road is actually separating that out. So the question is how well does your crop husk when you got those sticks in there? Do you need to move some of them out before you husk? Those are questions that are still left to answer that we’ll, we’ll find a little bit more about it in the next couple weeks as we start working with the stuff we collected.
JASON FISCHBACH 27:58
All right. So the Oxbow unit running it there at Paul Ronsheim’s. It sure was a crowd pleaser. Seemed like everybody was pretty impressed by it. And Scott, it seemed to me you like driving that thing?
Scott Sanford 28:10
It’s got a nice cab on it.
JASON FISCHBACH 28:12
That’s right. So you know, what did you think that was your kind of the maiden voyage this year, that thing after spending months and months getting it up and running.
Scott Sanford 28:20
Yeah, I mean, it has, you know, the cleaning the back end of it cleans it, we couldn’t plug it, it doesn’t take sticks out, but it cleans the leaves out. It only requires one person to run versus the other requires three people to run it. I say one person to run the harvester, you’re going to need another person possibly to help with unloading the crop at the end of the rows. And it’s got capacity. I mean, we were going two and a half miles an hour for tests. And you know, if you got the right rows and comfort with the driver, you probably can do three miles an hour. We’re knocking we’re knocking stuff off, we were harvesting at 33% of its full capacity setting.
JASON FISCHBACH 29:06
On the shake the meters or? Wow! On the header. And we tried to go to 45 and it was basically too much as we were taking all the catkins off and we tried it as both a sway and a slapper unit. It seemed to work equally well. And you didn’t break any of those those bows in there right? Because there were…
Scott Sanford 29:28
No, we didn’t break any bow rods. And and with the rotary BEI we didn’t break any rods that I know of this year either.
JASON FISCHBACH 29:36
So like Dave said, if you did jack that thing up, I mean, put the hydraulics up, you could be 10-12 feet off the ground and handle material that maybe 10 feet tall?
Scott Sanford 29:45
But the problem is you got to realize as you get up more, the branches spread out more. And so you your biggest loss on those machine, any of the machines is down around the base of the crop.
JASON FISCHBACH 29:58
So we’re on relatively flat ground. How much slope do you think these units can handle? How much comfort would you have Scott, tipping that BEI over?
Scott Sanford 30:05
So the BEI is rated at 20%. I wouldn’t want to get it on 20%. You You can level it. We had tried automatic leveling, but it put us into the dirt. If you had sloping ground, you could you could try to, you know, level it up and keep it level with a, it would help with the center balance a little bit, but I don’t think it matters that much. With the harvest operation. If you got on a real slope, it might with a conveyor if if things were tumbling backwards, because you’re such such an angle. But
Dave Bohnhoff 30:40
yeah, I don’t want to mislead anybody. We we weren’t on flat ground at Paul’s place. That is what you call sloping ground. And at one end of the field, you’re not going to have slopes even in southwestern Wisconsin that are too much greater than that. They’re just, they’re long. But they’re bought at that angle.
Scott Sanford 31:00
Yeah. Well, and we were going up and down them. Yeah. Some places you might be going across them. And that’s more of the issue.
JASON FISCHBACH 31:08
Well, it’s a good point in terms of arranging these plantings, it probably makes more sense. From a water management, you’d like to go with the contour, you know, parallel to it, but maybe harvesting you’d rather go perpendicular to the contour, huh?
Scott Sanford 31:21
Yep. And I think, you know, in some places where they grow coffee, with sloping ground, I think they’re going up and down the slopes so they can mechanically harvest verses across cross cross the slopes, just for that reason.
JASON FISCHBACH 31:34
How about that Oxbow unit? How much could do on a side slope? Would you be comfortable with that? What’s that rate of that?
Scott Sanford 31:41
Oh, well, oh, so the Oxbow is the one that’s rated for 20%. Okay, the BEI. I don’t know what you do on that. Because those are a little top heavy. Because the engine sits on top. I don’t know,what do you think Dave.
Dave Bohnhoff 31:55
Yeah, well, we shot a video, and I have that video somewhere on the Oxbow. When you are driving it at West Madison, and you had one set of wheels, right? So the wheels were on the pavement or on the roadway and then you had the left one down in that field. And I would have to say that there was a difference there of probably a foot to two feet. If you look at the video, and he you were able to level that machine with no problem. And if that represented a slope, you were probably at a 20% slope, right there. I don’t think it’s a problem at all for that machine.
Scott Sanford 32:31
So the BEI is a little different, because you can you can level or you can change the front two wheels heigth, but the back go together. So you I don’t know that you can necessarily run across the slope quite as well, because of the way it levels, it doesn’t have really a true independent suspension like you would say you had with the Oxbow.
JASON FISCHBACH 32:55
Well, just a couple more questions. So what’s your sense after two years? Can we mechanically harvest shrub hazelnuts? What do you think, can we do this?
Scott Sanford 33:03
I think we can. Your, it’s not going to take all the nuts off to typic or possibly because they ripen at different times. Farmers should or growers should save quite a bit of time with harvesting. I mean, just ask Paul he was more than happy to have us come out and harvest this crop. I mean, we got done in a day what probably would have taken him weeks.
Dave Bohnhoff 33:28
Right. Yeah, it’s essential to have a machine like this if you have any acreage and absolutely these machines work very well. We’ll give you numbers as we tabulate them, numbers of what Paul picked off the plants after we completed our harvest versus what we actually took off during harvest you’re gonna see that he didn’t take off much. We pretty much cleaned his plants and that was in a single pass. And I think he would tell you that he didn’t lose much crop prior to us showing up there. I don’t know how many of his plants for ripe had started dropping clusters prior to our harvest. I don’t think it was many if any.
JASON FISCHBACH 34:13
Right, not much on the ground. Not a lot of squirrel chewed up piles either on the plant so he’s got them protected well
Scott Sanford 34:18
It was it was really clean. I was surprised that we didn’t see a lot more stuff and I I was surprised overall even at Stoughton that there wasn’t as much on the ground as I thought stuff that we would have knocked off and left on the ground. As Scott said there is some stuff between rows and it’s really related, I think, to the width of the base of the shrub. And still I think the axle did a pretty good job of working around those plants. We did damage. We broke a few welds on our collection plates on the Oxbow. It’s the only issue we had, but man we were running through some really wide stuff.
JASON FISCHBACH 34:23
Yeah, so so um last question what what’s next with the harvesting project? What do you guys want to do?
Dave Bohnhoff 35:07
Well, I’m gonna focus now on green cluster husking, we know we can knock the nuts off, I think I’ll maybe someday experiment with the different types of picking heads something that is a little bit more robust, less expensive, a lot lighter. I think what we need my my approach would be to make a fairly light machine that doesn’t weigh as much as some of these machines we have been operating and, and one of the things is is how we collect and that’s we don’t need these bucket elevators. We don’t have to handle this material with kid gloves, we can use vacuum, we can use augers that’s a whole nother thing. We can drop this stuff in augers, you can auger it directly into a husker, there could be a husker on each side on the bottom. So the first thing that happens is it comes in and it goes right through a Husker be just like a regular combine, where you harvest and the first thing it does is it goes through a threshing machine and breaks everything up. And that includes your twigs, it takes your nuts out of your clusters. And then we move it into a winnowing operation right after that. And we have our hulled nuts. I mean, that’s going to be the approach. I think, therefore, I’m not as concerned right now about how these machines handle the crop after it knocks them off. Because we’re not going to use that method of conveyance in a in a real harvester for hazelnuts, at least in my opinion. And like I said, you’re looking at probably a harvester that would where the operater would be close to the ground. You know, I’ve got, I worked through the details of it, in my mind when I’m doing odd jobs that don’t require a lot of thought, like driving a tractor in circles around the field. But the thing is, is that the big part of it now is is a very robust, threshing mechanism, or what we call a husker. And I think our next step is to run that John Bashaw belt under the pendragon name, and observe it, look at how it works, maybe make some adjustments to it. And then I’d like to start working with people that really understand threshing mechanisms, and that would maybe be some retired combine engineers, and see what they recommend. Bring in a threshing mechanism from maybe some newer combines, set them up so that we can adjust a lot of different things on them and see how they operate. And then try to size something that will work for a single row, hedgerow hazelnut planting. So I mean, that’s that’s what I see our next logical step. Because I think we know once we’ve got a husker to separate the stuff out fairly well, just like any combine does, using air, using shakers, screens, same stuff that we do right now, in our garages with hazelnuts.
JASON FISCHBACH 38:08
Well, any last word, so otherwise, we’re all in recovery mode, trying to catch up on projects we had to put aside here with the hazelnut harvest season. So it’s good to have that part done for now.
Scott Sanford 38:22
JASON FISCHBACH 38:24
All right. Well, thanks guys for your time and yeah, and onward. So concludes the 2020 hazelnut harvest season podcast. If you’re looking to see these machines in action, you can go to midwesthazelnuts.org, where we’ve posted a video with clips of each of these machines and operation. Also the formal results from our research trials this fall will be available through a webinar, and you can register for that webinar also at midwesthazelnuts.org. Brought to you by the University of Wisconsin Madison Division of Extension