Machinery

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Machine catches Colorado potato beetles

The Colorado Beetle Catcher is almost ready for marketing. The machine catches 70% or more of colorado beetles and larvae from an infestet potato field. Because of its mechanical working principle (as opposed to chemicals) the Catcher is first and foremost interesting for organic growers.

The prototype is made for the front linkage of a tractor and works four potato ridges wide. The basic principle behind it is that the Colorado potato beetle instinctively drops down and stops moving to elude its attackers. The machine is therefore equipped with eight hydraulically driven rotors with plastic flaps, two per potato ridge that rotate in opposite directions. They stroke along the potato foliage with considerable force and tap the beetles and larvae loose from the plant. These fall, as is the intention, into containers that move along under the foliage.

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Colorado potato beetles destroyed afterwards

The height of the rotors is adjusted with a spindle. Height and width of the collection bins can also be adjusted, so that the user can place them in the optimal position for his cultivation method and the current status of the crop.

Every so often, the bins fold up to tip their ‘harvest’ into a collection bin. Useful insects can escape from there; Colorado potato beetles mostly stay in their place and can be destroyed afterwards.

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The 'harvest' of about a quarter of a hectare of potatoes at an organic farm. Many beetles and larvae, few potato leaves. - Photo: Gert Gerrits
The 'harvest' of about a quarter of a hectare of potatoes at an organic farm. Many beetles and larvae, few potato leaves. - Photo: Gert Gerrits

Foliage withstands the beating

Dutch inventor Joris van der Kamp and constructors from Fieldworkers developed the prototype in close consultation with Dutch potato growers. The results are promising, say the growers where the machine has been tested. One of them used the Colorado Beetle Catcher on the same field twice in the beginning of July 2021 on two consecutive days.

The damage to the foliage is not too bad, and much less than the damage the beetles would do. The organic potato grower estimates that both times he removed 50-60% of the beetles and larvae, so altogether three quarters or more.

However, inventor Van der Kamp doesn’t want to give overly optimistic estimates and would be happy with a 60 to 70% removal rate.

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The makers of the Colorado Beetle Catcher are planning to offer more variants in addition to the front linkage version. Here is a type for the rear linkage. - Photo: Gert Gerrits
The makers of the Colorado Beetle Catcher are planning to offer more variants in addition to the front linkage version. Here is a type for the rear linkage. - Photo: Gert Gerrits

Adaptable

Because of its adjustability, the Catcher can be used at various stages of growth, but it seems to work best when the foliage is connected within the row but the rows themselves are still separate from each other.

With the machine in the front linkage it is possible to use a second implement simultaneously behind the tractor, for example for ridging or hoeing. But the team has already made progress with other types that fit into the rear linkage. The aim is to have several commercial end versions on the market in early 2022.

The first prototype in the front linkage. The best results seem to be achieved when the haulm is well connected within the rows, but still somewhat open between the rows. - Photo: Joris van der Kamp
The first prototype in the front linkage. The best results seem to be achieved when the haulm is well connected within the rows, but still somewhat open between the rows. - Photo: Joris van der Kamp

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