Closed: Assessment of the reduction of sugar losses by adopting a direct transfer 'Chaser'-based harvesting system

Timescale: 2017 - 2019
Project Lead: Dr Simon Bowen
Project Sponsor: BBRO

Project Summary

The use of chaser bins (also known as transfer wagons) are not an entirely new concept and have been used widely in Australia and North America transferring grain from combine to road truck for many years. The potential benefits of using a chaser-based system will depend on whether the crop is being directly loaded for just in time delivery to the factory or whether it is being used simply as a more efficient indirect system i.e. to unload the harvester in-field and transfer crop to a temporary pile or clamp before loading to the factory. The use of chasers in sugar beet has not been widely adopted but producers are beginning to consider the benefits. There is little independent data available on the advantages this system may deliver.

Main Objectives

A chaser-based system is considered to improve the efficiency of harvesting by:

  • reducing the need to have multiple tractor and trailer units working in the field
  • an ability to keep working in difficult conditions
  • less mud on the roads and damage to tracks
  • reduced ground compaction
  • easier formation of temporary and longer-term storage clamps with less root damage.
  • The more significant improvement is likely to be where the chaser-system is used for direct loading to the factory and leads to lower levels of damage and root losses as the crop does not get unloaded to a pile from where it then must be cleaned and transferred to the lorry for delivery.


These advantages may need to traded-off against ability to do less root cleaning prior to delivery or storage as chasers have a lower screen area to remove soil compared to a cleaner loader and will not benefit from a having a short period for adhering soil to dry and separate as occurs in a conventional system. This will to an extent be soil type dependant although this has not been quantified.


The project is designed to assess the advantages in terms of better sugar recovery through the use a of chaser- based harvest system for direct loading situation and to examine the impact of soil type on operational advantage.

Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry

  • The data was inconclusive with regards to which harvester-to-lorry delivery system resulted in the lowest losses. However, minimising the handling of the crop (Chaser direct to lorry) and immediate delivery to the factor, unsurprisingly favours improved crop recovery.
  • The root breakage results were significant at both sites. With the Chaser system causing the more yield loss (just under 2% more) than the tractor-trailer system. However, these root breakages were only assessed at the clamps of two treatments and we therefore cannot be sure where in the systems these root breakages are occurring.
  • These root breakages are more likely to become lost yield in a situation where the beet is placed in a clamp or a cleaner loader before going to the factory – Loading straight from the chaser to the lorry will mitigate some of this loss by delivering the larger broken roots to the factory. Many crops may need further cleaning (in addition to the Chaser cleaning system) to reduce soil tare and this is likely to be influenced by soil type and condition.
  • The relative advantage of using a chaser to direct deliver to the lorry, even with possibly elevated root breakage levels against the use of a trailer, tipped to floor and then through a cleaner loader needs to be more carefully assessed across a range of conditions. This first year has given us many insights into how best to test these harvest-to-lorry systems and we hope to use this knowledge to better tailor the protocol in coming years to help us truly understand where the benefits of using chasers may lie.
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BBRO is a not for profit making company.
We are set up jointly by British Sugar plc and the National Farmers' Union.

British Sugar
National Farmers' Union