DESTONING remains one of the ‘must do’ chores for potato growers and anything that helps make the operation more efficient can represent a big saving in establishment costs.

The SF visited Fairlie Fresh, to see how James Fairlie and his father, Ian, got on with their two new 5 Webber destoners, from ScanStone, after they’d worked an uninterrupted season.

The Fairlies, who run Kirkton of Monikie, have been impressed with the performance of the new destoners, praising the machine, but also giving in-depth and constructive feedback to the R and D department at the Skea family’s ScanStone’s base, in Angus.

Moving from three machines down to two, meant that the Fairlies were able to make a big saving while still achieving the same output from the same number of acres planted. They commented that the machines were easy to pull with their two John Deere 6215R tractors, able to work both uphill and downhill.

Ian mentioned that having the extra fifth drop meant that some areas did not need to be bed tilled, unlike the previous year, offering more flexibility and lowering costs. He said that they were able to rely on the performance of the destoners, regardless of soil conditions, and said that in a wetter year, the 5 Webbers would really have been worth the investment.

They were also impressed with the new Chateau bed formers that they had on demo earlier in the season and said the destoner followed the Chateau ridges perfectly. The intake disks of the destoner were exactly where they needed to be to pick up all the soil, without missing any stone.

The wheels of the destoner also fitted well into the ridges and prevented unintentional ‘wandering’, while the flatter bed was great in a dry year like this season, as it kept in as much moisture as possible, and offered an even intake and even wear across the width of the destoner.

The wider, steeper bed left by the Chateau ploughs meant that the destoner could work less deep and achieve a more than adequate amount of soil behind the bed, Ian remarked.

Comparing the machines to their predecessors, James commented on the soft drive which acted as a shock absorber on the road and reduced strain on both the tractor and machine. It was more comfortable when roading the machines from their farm at Kirkton of Monikie, up to Aberdeenshire, where they also plant potatoes, both said.

The upgraded eight-stud commercial-style axle on the new 5 Webbers meant that road travel was safer and easier, also the bigger 405 R24 wheels seem to fit perfectly in the rows, and their wider width meant less compaction, while being able to flatten the stones in the bed.

The upgraded drawbar, with pick-up hook, meant hitching to and from the tractor was easy, leaving a better clearance at the front of the machine as well.

Working with a longer machine, James was initially unsure about the ease of turning on the headland, however with the increased steering angle on the new 5 Webber, compared to his older machines, the extra length did not pose any issues.

When asked if the slight dip in the beds formed by his ScanStone destoner made any impact planting behind with his six-row planter, James said that it didn’t make a difference to him because the front of the planter had a share to part the soil anyway, and there was always plenty of soil to plant into.

The new control system on the ScanStone was entirely designed, programmed and built in-house, meaning that extra functions that drivers find useful can be added without much hassle. The Fairlies found the control box in the tractor cab easy to work and there were a lot more options for automating processes if desired.

For example, within the automatic headland management system, they were able to lower the share to the pre-set depth, lower the discs, start up the scrubber web at the pre-set speed, start the cross conveyor in the appropriate direction and centre the wheels under one single button.

This meant more attention could be given to adjusting the position of the cross-conveyor frame, ensuring that the stones were always placed precisely between the beds.

However, they both had ideas on how to further improve the control box, which has been taken back to the R and D department in Forfar.