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J. Agric. Engng Res. (1998) 71, 103112 Article No.



Development of Stripper Harvesters: A Review

C. J. M. Tado; P. Wacker; H. D. Kutzbach; D. C. Suministrado
Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Maligaya, Munoz, Nueva Ecija, Philippines;  Institute of  Agricultural Engineering, Hohenheim University, Stuttgart, Federal Republic of Germany;  College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology, University of the Philippines at Los Banos, College, Laguna, Philippines.  (Received 10 February 1997; accepted in revised form 23 March 1998)

Stripping is a very old harvesting concept that continues to challenge designers through the centuries. The most promising stripping system at present is the stripper header developed at Silsoe Research Institute, UK and commercially produced by Shelbourne Reynolds Engineering, Ltd. The Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header increases combine capacity by 50100% at a lower power requirement through the reduced amount of straw passing through the threshing and separating systems of the combine. In fact, the highest reported output of 59)6 t/h was achieved by a stripper combine harvesting rice in Australia. However, the increased capacity with the stripper is achieved at the cost of more lost grains at the front, at least 1% higher than the cutterbar. High front-end losses in thin and tangled crops and its inability to harvest certain crops such as rape and rye limits its adoption by farmers. Good performance of the stripper in rice presents a bright potential for small stripper harvesters in Asia where most of the worlds rice is grown. Further research is needed in understanding the stripping process to fully exploit its potential. 1998 Silsoe Research Institute

1. Introduction Mechanical harvesting of cereal grains has come a long way. Tremendous progress in modern combine technology has been achieved in the last decade by combine manufacturers constantly vying to produce more ecient and ergonomically sound machines through improved threshing and separating systems and on-board computers.1 With more powerful and ecient machines, grain capacities of 40 t/h for conventional combines2 in wheat and up to nearly 60 t/h for stripper-equipped combines3 in rice have already been attained. The performance of modern combines depends critically on straw throughput and a reduction in the straw
0021-8634/98/100103#10 $30.00/0

intake should lead eventually to higher potential grain capacity.4 In fact, the capacity of the conventional combine harvester is limited by the amount of straw its threshing and separation systems can handle.5,6 One way of reducing straw intake during combine harvesting is to cut the crop as high as possible. With this method, straw intake could be reduced by 5070% which results in a 5090% increase in eld and throughput capacity.7 However, this harvesting technique could only be used in a standing crop of uniform height. In laid crops and overmatured crops with drooping panicles, the high-cutting technique could not be used without considerable losses. The principle of stripping, that is, taking the seeds from the plant without harvesting the straw, presents a bright prospect in mechanical harvesting technology since the amount of straw handled by the machine is considerably reduced. The main advantages of the stripper harvester are the possibility of increasing the harvesting capacity at a reduced power requirement and more combining hours at harvest. The reduced straw intake also oers potential for a reduction in size and weight for a machine of given capacity. A study of the literature shows that although much research has been done on stripping, successes have been rather few. Past attempts to develop ecient grain stripping mechanisms failed mainly because of high shatter losses and poor performance in severely lodged crops.8 In spite of past failures, stripping continues to attract the interest of researchers and designers of harvesting machinery. The most promising stripper system at present is undoubtedly the stripper header developed at Silsoe Research Institute, UK, and commercially produced by the British manufacturer Shelbourne Reynolds Engineering Ltd. Initial reactions to this system have been mixed under European conditions.9 Feedback from farmers and researchers has shown its inherent advantages over the cutterbar combine, while at the same time pointing out limitations in some crop conditions.
1998 Silsoe Research Institute



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Parallel to the development of the Silsoe stripper are the stripper harvesting research in both France and China. Direct comparison between the three systems would not be appropriate as the design criteria used are dierent. This paper reviews the development of strippers and past and current work is covered. Future prospects for stripper technology are also discussed.

2. Previous work The principle of grain stripping is not new. The rst known stripper harvester was described by the Roman historian Pliny around 70 AD. This equipment known as the Gallic Vallus (Fig. 1), was a simple wooden container with a forward projecting comb mounted on wheels and pushed into the crop by a donkey. Stripped grains were raked into the container by an attendant walking along the side of the machine.10 In 1787 in England, William Pitt proposed a eldrippling device composed of a rippling cylinder with transverse iron combs, xed to the back of a cart. The cylinder was driven from one wheel of the cart pushed through the crop by a horse.11 The stripper was developed further by John W. Bull in Australia in 1843 employing the comb and beater principle. John Ridley brought it to workable form. The animal-pushed stripper consisted of a horizontally projecting, longtoothed comb and revolving wooden beaters driven by belts connected to the wheel axles.10 The Australian stripper eventually became popular among farmers in that country, where conditions were favourable for its use. In 1913, Headlie Taylor10 equipped the Australian stripper with a cutterbar installed under the comb and crop control rotor which facilitated the cutting of heads from the straw held by the rotor and comb. The machine was also provided with crop lifters for harvesting tangled crops. However, the introduction of this type of machine

in the USA proved unsuccessful12 which triggered the development of designs in which the stripping action is achieved by high-speed stripping elements directly in contact with the crop. In the USA, C. C. Baldwin built and tested a Standing Grain Thresher10,13 in 1910. The machine (Fig. 2) had a horizontal stripping rotor powered by a small gasoline engine and moved by draught horses. Crop movement over the rotor was initially aided by an air blast and subsequently was replaced by a moving canvas. Commercial stripper harvesters of a dierent design were introduced in Great Britain8 in the 1940s. The Wild Harvest Thresher consisted of a number of parallel stripping plates, approximately 500 mm in diameter, mounted on a horizontal spindle. However, high shatter losses and inability to recover severely laid crops frustrated its use in the wet European climate. The problems of the Wild machines were related mainly to the long, relatively closely spaced static lifters which preceded the stripper rotor. More strippers of various designs were developed during the latter half of this century. In 1964, Poynter14 developed a stripper harvester for wheat. The stripping mechanism consisted of a comb which supported and guided the standing crop and a set of beaters to bring the plants into the machine for stripping. A threshing concave behind the comb further breaks the material apart to free the grains. When tested in rice,15 the machine gave high shattering losses and many plants were cut by the beaters rendering the stripping action ineective. In the following year, the Michigan State University developed a small-scale stripper harvester for rice,15 provided with a conical stripping drum consisting of two coaxial, truncated cones placed one within the other. A conical shape was used to subject the heads continuously to an increasing variable peripheral speed while moving across the concave. As the upper section of the plant immediately below the panicle is fed into the clearance between the two cones without severing the plant, threshing is eected

Fig. 1. A reconstruction of the Gallic stripper as described by Pliny in 70 AD from Quick and Buchele10



evaluation was reported. Bining and Wadhawa22 conducted laboratory studies on an experimental unit of an in-eld wheat threshing mechanism. The unit consisted of a stripping-cum-threshing cylinder, blind concave, lower casing and feeding side casing. The stalks were gripped at about 150 mm below the base of the ears by at mild steel strips to avoid bending the crop.

3. Current developments 3.1. he chinese stripper

Fig. 2. C. C. Baldwin+s **Standing Grain thresher++, 1916

when the panicle is pulled through the clearance by the forward motion of the machine.16 In the mid-1960s, a small-scale experimental plot harvester for cereal grains based on the comb and beater principle was developed in South Australia.17 The machine used the momentum gained by the crop from the beaters to transport it to the cleaner and rethresher. The machine was never used in wet or lodged crop. In the late 1960s, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines developed a rice stripper harvester.18 Stripping was carried out on a belt tted with wire-loop teeth moving parallel to the travel direction of the machine. The crop is fed onto the belt by plant gathering bars. Development work was nally stopped in 1975 when the machine was not adopted due to high shatter losses and poor performance particularly in dicult crop conditions.19 Another version of a rice stripper harvester was developed by Burkhardt20 which removed the grain from standing plants without cutting the stalks. The machine consisted of a 0)76 m wide header containing a 0)46 m diameter stripping cylinder tted with wire loops. A feeder drum with bristle strips fed the panicles into the machine and held the plants down so that they remain in contact with the stripping cylinder. A deceleration pad was used to absorb grain energy. The stripper performed best on high-moisture grain (2030% w.b.) with straw moisture at 6080% w.b. As the plants became drier, more stems and trash were collected. Chowdhury21 presented the design and operational principles of a power tiller-mounted stripper combine which threshed the ears in situ inside the stripping unit by utilizing the technique of a dierential beating action of the stripping spikes. During stripping, the crop is allowed to pass through the stripping unit composed of spikes attached to a series of vertical shafts arranged in two rows. The design was not provided with a pick-up unit for working on lodged crops and no eld performance

Work on the track-type, self-propelled Chinese TPC (threshing prior to cutting) stripper combine is being conducted at Northeast Agricultural University in Harbin. The rst prototype used a transverse mounted belt-type stripper because of a wide variation in the height of rice plants in China where rice is direct seeded.23 The current version24 employs a drum-type stripper as shown in Fig. 3. The stripper system is essentially composed of a pick-up system for harvesting lodged crop, a drum-type thresher to thresh the standing rice, and a pneumatic conveyor system to provide air suction for reducing grain losses. The plants are deected by ngers on the chain of the pick up and gently pressed further by the feeding belt. The panicles are then fed into the thresher through the action of the teeth on the threshing drum and air suction from the pneumatic conveying system. The threshed grain and cha containing small amounts of broken straw are conducted through the conduit to the depositing chamber and down to the discharge rotor. The grain and cha mixture is then conveyed to the axial ow rethresher-separator. The straw moves axially rearward and is expelled outside by the blades of the cylinder. As the grain and light cha fall through the concave to the auger, the cha is blown away by the air stream from the cross-ow fan. The clean grain is elevated and conveyed to the sack. A tractor-mounted stripper is also undergoing development in China.25 The machine which is still in the experimental stage, uses a half-feeding threshing device that threshes only the head portion of the crop. Opposing chain conveyors grasp the stalks of the plant and feed the crop to the threshing cylinder.

3.2. he French EC 60 cereal stripper The EC 60 stripper is a self-propelled machine designed by the engineers of CEEMAT (now CIRADSAR). It is primarily intended for harvesting rice in small and medium-sized elds common in developing


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Fig. 3. The Chinese TPC stripper combine

countries. Development began in 1982 and the eld tests on prototypes were conducted in France and Africa.26 Promising results led to a collaboration with CEMAGREF in 1984 which further improved the machines performance.27 In 1987, the EC 60 manufactured commercially by the French manufacturer Rock International, won a gold medal award at the Paris International Machinery Show. The stripping technique of the EC 60 stripper26 shown in Fig. 4, is based on a longitudinal rotor principle. The stripping mechanism is composed of a dividergatherer system mounted on the front of the machine, and a threshing chamber with a drum studded with wire

loops. The dividergatherer system separates a strip of plants, raises the lodged stalks and brings them to the threshing chamber. The stalks are then pressed on the wire loop-studded longitudinal cylinder (i.e. parallel to the line of motion of the machine) where the grains are separated and then conveyed to the hopper at the back of the machine. A grain separator placed adjacent to the cylinder completes the grain-straw separation. The EC 60 has a total width of 1)70 m but the maximum harvesting width is only 0)60 m. This makes the design unsuitable for scaling up to widths over 3 m which is required in developed countries. This means further that it can harvest only in one direction. If the crops are planted very close to the bunds, it would be necessary to harvest the outer rows manually to prevent the machine from trampling the crop. Under rm soil conditions, the machine has been reported to harvest at speeds of 11 km/h in standing crop and up to 5 km/h in laid crops.27 However, the tests conducted on rice in Thailand in 1992 indicated an unsatisfactory performance of the cage wheels on wet elds.28

3.3. he Silsoe stripper The Silsoe stripper (Fig. 5) uses the transverse rotor principle in which stripping of the crop takes place along the whole length of the rotor arranged transversely to the direction of travel. It consists of exible arrow head stripping elements mounted on a horizontal rotor of 540 mm diameter and rotating at 600800 rev/min resulting in a peripheral speed8 of 1722)7 m/s. The stripping elements, made from moulded polyurethane, were essentially V-shaped but with a 20 mm circular recess at the base.29 The rotor, tted with keyhole-slotted teeth, spins

Fig. 4. The CEEMAT cereal stripper



Fig. 5. The Silsoe (then NIAE) stripper, 1984

upwards and combs the grain from the straw as the rotor is propelled through the crop30 (Fig. 6). Most of the straw is left anchored in the eld. The upward rotation of the rotor with respect to the crop enables it to pick up lodged crop. Initial investigations on the concept of in situ stripping began at Silsoe Research Institute (then called NIAE) in the UK in 1984. Two experimental rigs,8,29 a 1)5 m wide tractor-mounted eld rig and a 300 mm wide laboratory rig were constructed to study the stripping process. Tests were conducted on wheat, barley, oats, rice, beans and other crops. Improvements on the design were incorporated as a result of the laboratory and eld tests. Addi-

Fig. 6. Stripping action of the Silsoe stripper teeth, from Lundin30

tional tests were carried out on a 3)6 m wide experimental header.4 Header loss measurements were conducted using a number of crops including linseed, peas and beans. A report from Australia shows its high potential for harvesting sorghum.31 The stripper was also tested for rice in Italy and the USA.3133 Performance evaluations showed that with the stripper header, throughput capacity could be increased from 50 to 100% at loss levels comparable with conventional combines. The header was also found to be eective in cereal grains and in several types of herbage seeds, linseed and other crops of medium height and modest stem diameters. It can also eectively harvest lodged crops with good grain recovery particularly in barley.34 However, the strippers performance was found to be highly sensitive to machine settings such as hood height and forward speed.8 In wheat, the lower edge of the hood has to be maintained 100150 mm below the crop height to minimize grain losses. Too low a rotor speed results in unstripped grain while too fast a rotor speed increases straw intake. Lodged crops require the rotor to be set lower. Since gathering loss decreases at higher speeds, combine capacity is increased by harvesting at speeds higher than in the conventional combine. In 1986, the British Technology Group which holds world patents on the Silsoe stripper design, licensed Shelbourne Reynolds Engineering Ltd. to manufacture the stripper header.8 After two years of eld tests, Shelbourne Reynolds began the commercial production of stripper headers in 1988. The retrot header that may be tted to all popular makes of combine harvesters, is now being exported to more than 30 countries worldwide (Judy Farrow, personal communication, 6 March 1996). During the 1990 Smitheld Show, Kidd Farm Machinery unveiled its trailed stripper combine. Kidds trailed stripper harvester was built in collaboration with Shelbourne Reynolds and with technical assistance from Silsoe. The machine was pulled by a 75 kW tractor using a Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header. Only four rotary separators, 600 mm in diameter, were placed behind the threshing drum, taking advantage of the reduced straw intake. The trailed stripper, which costs about half that of a self-propelled combine of the same capacity, was earmarked for release35 in 1992. In August 1991, Kidd was taken over by a Danish rm, Taarup and further activities on the stripper were suspended.36 Since 1995, considerable numbers of stripper headers using the Silsoe concept have been marketed, also under licence from the British Technology Group, by Western Combines Corporation (now Western Harvesters Corporation) of Canada. They have the name Harvest Hustlers and can be distinguished from the Shelbourne


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Reynolds headers by six rows of stripping teeth instead of eight rows.3

4. Experiences with the Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header The Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header (Fig. 7) is currently used by applied researchers and farmers under widely varying conditions.37,38 In Germany, research at Halle39 showed that combine capacity could be increased by 70 to 90% with the stripper header. The minimal straw intake in the stripper has consequently reduced the loss in the straw walkers. However, the increased grain throughput at higher forward speeds caused overloading of the sieves. The stripper performed better than the cutterbar in harvesting over-ripe barley with drooping panicles, but it could not be used in rape. It also performed well in harvesting dense ripe crops of winter and spring barley, winter wheat and linseed but was not suitable for harvesting rye. The stripper had problems in harvesting low yielding and immature crops. It was also found to be more sensitive to the skill of the operator compared with a cutterbar. Straw intake of strippers were found to be about 30% lower than that of a cutterbar.40 Under favourable conditions in Southern Sweden,41 the stripper was able to harvest leaess peas at 11 km/h. The capacity was increased by at least 50% using the stripper in relation to conventional combines. However, the higher capacity is achieved at the cost of more lost grains in front of the machine. Generally, the stripper caused at least 1% higher header losses than the conventional technique. The stripper has the advantage in semi-lodged crops but encountered diculties in attened crops. Severely lodged crops could still be salvaged by harvesting against the direction of lodging and setting

the rotor low but there is a risk of soil entering the machine. In the USA, comparative tests done in wheat on 25 combines,42 rearmed the increased capacity of the stripper through increased harvesting speed (8 km/h as compared with 5 km/h). Another set of eld tests43 in wheat showed that a stripper combine travelling at over 7 km/h had comparable header loss to cutterbar combines travelling at 1)34)4 km/h. Driving too fast with the stripper caused overloading of chaer and sieves. Similar results44,45 were obtained in rice when operating at higher speed. Farmers use of the stripper header has been most successful in rice.46,47 Harvesting capacity is reportedly doubled and rice grains obtained were cleaner and of higher grade. Since rice straw is a very abrasive material, the reduction of straw intake has also reduced the wear and tear on the interior of the combine.47,48 The performance of both the Shelbourne Reynolds and Harvest Hustler strippers were evaluated against standard fronts in Australia.49 There was no major dierence in the performance of both brands of strippers. Gathering losses of the strippers were at least 1)5% higher than the cutterbars in relatively dry wheat crop. On the other hand, the stripper front consistently increased capacity and was the most cost eective on suitably adapted combines in rice.

5. Stripping in developing countries Current stripper harvesting research in developing countries started at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for rice harvesting. In 1989, a collaborative project funded by the Overseas Development Administration in the UK was set up between IRRI and Silsoe to develop small, walking type stripper harvesting systems suitable for small rice farms of Asia. Following a feasibility study,50 two prototypes were built in 1991, a two-row (0)45 mm wide) and a three-row (0)6 m wide) machine.51 Both prototypes were deemed too small to be accepted by farmers, thus a four-row (0)80 m) machine designated as SG 800 was built and eld-tested during the 1992 dry season harvest in the Philippines.52 Gathering losses of less than 1% of yield were measured in standing semidwarf rice varieties.53 The stripping mechanism of the IRRI strippers is as used in the Silsoe machine, although local materials (i.e. used car tyres) have been used to produce the stripping elements. The work at IRRI focused on two walk-behind stripper harvesting systems to meet the need for labour-saving harvest technology in small eld parcels. The rst system is the stripper gatherer system54 wherein the SG 800 harvester (Fig. 8) simply gathers the stripped material in a removable collection container. Rethreshing and

Fig. 7. The Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header



Fig. 8. The SG800 Stripper Harvester

cleaning are carried out in a stationary operation in the eld. The thresher/cleaner55 used is a lightweight axialow unit specically designed to take advantage of the reduced quantity and length of straw and the high degree of free grains in the stripped crop. The second system is the stripper thresher56 in which rethreshing and straw separation are carried out on-board the harvester and only a stationary sieving and cleaning operation is required to produce clean grain. IRRI released the stripper gatherer and stripper thresher systems to manufacturers and National Agencies in January 1993 and September 1994, respectively. In April 1993, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) started collaboration with IRRI to eld-test the stripper gatherer system in Bataan province, Philippines where Kubota reapers are extensively used.57 The following year, eld evaluation and dissemination of the stripper technology was expanded to include Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam through an IRRIGerman Technical Cooperation project, Postharvest echnologies for Rice in the Humid ropics. The project was terminated in October 1997. Adoption of the stripper gatherer system is most advanced in the Philippines where engineers from PhilRice together with the local manufacturers continue to improve the original IRRI design based on feedback from farmers. PhilRice vigorously promotes the stripper technology to local farmers and cooperatives in major rice growing areas in the country through eld demonstrations, print and broadcast media coverage as well as training of manufacturers and farmers. The SG 800 harvester is now commercially available in the Philippines. From 1994 to 1996, a total of 137 units of the SG 800

harvester have been sold to farmers and cooperatives in the Philippines.58 Another 25 units were reportedly sold by manufacturers in 1997. Nationwide promotion of the stripper technology is now in full swing with the nancial support from the national government through the Philippine Department of Agriculture.

6. Future prospects Recent development in stripper harvesting technology points out the feasibility of stripper harvesters. The CIRAD-SAR stripper is being upgraded to make it more suitable for use in wet paddy elds of Asia.28 Improvements to the Chinese TPC stripper combine are also underway (Jian Yi-yuan, personal communication, 26 March 1996). Cutting and windrowing the straw immediately after stripping the grain is done by a windrowing device set in front of the track. The basic advantage of the Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header is the considerable increase in combine capacity. However, the stripper header is not really matched to the combine which results in overloading the chaer and sieves at high feed rates. Research on new threshing and separating systems, as in the work at Silsoe,59 is needed to fully utilize the potential of the stripper header. Multi-crop capability is an important factor to be considered when purchasing a combine. While the stripper header is proven to harvest a large number of cereal grains, a cutterbar is still needed to harvest oilseed rape and beans. Good performance obtained in rice may provide a sound basis to develop specialized rice-harvesting strippers.


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The straw left in the eld after stripping can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on local climate and cropping practices. If the straw is used for other purposes such as animal feed or mulch, then another operation is needed to cut the stripped straw. Incorporation of the straw left in the eld after stripper harvesting is now made easier using specialized ploughs.60 The stripper can also be tted with disc mowers61 to cut the stripped straw for choppers and balers. Wheat farmers in the southern United States reported that standing stripped straw simplied no-till soybean seeding.42 Researchers at IRRI successfully ratooned rice after harvesting with the SG 800 harvester tted with a ridged roller.62 The specic method of straw treatment to be applied depends on the cultural and crop management practices in the locality. Lucas63 suggested several ways to handle straw. Front-end losses on the stripper header remain a problem especially in dicult crop conditions. New techniques of grain loss reduction, e.g. air suction64 therefore need further investigation. The issue of labour displacement plays a very important role in the success or failure of introducing mechanical harvesting technologies in developing countries.65 Introduction of the stripper harvesting technology to these countries has to be preceded by socio-economic impact studies. Further studies are still to be done in understanding and improving the stripping process. IRRI, PhilRice and Hohenheim University are jointly conducting basic research on the theoretical aspects of the Silsoe stripper rotor for applications to rice harvesting.

potential of the stripping principle in this crop. The Philippine experience on the IRRI developed strippers presents a bright prospect for revolutionizing rice harvesting in Asia, where most of the worlds rice is grown. Acceptance of the stripper technology in some areas is governed by socio-economic factors as well as crop and cultural management practices of the farmers. Further research needs to be done, to fully exploit the potential of the stripping principle.


3 4

7. Conclusions On-going research on stripper harvesting may revolutionize mechanical harvesting in the future. Strippers presently in the market, particularly the Shelbourne Reynolds stripper header consistently increase combine harvesting capacity by 50100% through the reduced amount of straw taken in by the machine. It is therefore not a coincidence that the highest reported combining output of 59)6 t/h was achieved by a stripper combine. The reduced straw intake also oers potential to build smaller, lighter combines without sacricing capacity. However, performance of the stripper is more sensitive to machine settings as well as crop and weather conditions than the cutterbar. Reduction of front-end losses in certain crop conditions as well as multi-crop capability are areas that still need further research. Since the crop wall ahead serves as a curtain that traps the grain at the front during stripping, the stripper does not perform well in thin crops. Inability of the stripper to harvest some crops such as rape and rye makes the cutterbar still indispensable on the farm. Good performance in rice shows the









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