Sugar-Cane Harvesters-The mechanical harvesting of sugar cane requires a machine that must perform several operations simultaneously. (1) The green watery tops must be severed and discarded. (2) The tremendous amount of leaf and trash must be removed from stalks. (3) The stalks must be cut as close to the ground as possible. (4) the stalks must be either placed in piles for loading or put directly into weagons.
Sugar cane is grown in bedded rows spaced about 1.8 m apart. The plants grow to a height of 3.7 to 4.6 meters, with a diameter of about 2.5 cm. the plants may be so thick as to average about 2.5 cm apart in the row. In Louisiana, texas, and florida, the harvesting period ranges from early October to late December. Sugar cane is grown in most tropical countries. The world production of sugar from sugar cane averages approximately 24 million. tons (21.8 million metric tons) annually. It may require 10 tons of sugar cane to produce 1 ton of sugar.
The dead leaves are usually burned out before harvesting is done. The stalks are cut at the top and at the ground with adjustable power-operated knives or disc blades. The severed stalks are conveyed through the machine in a vertical position. It is claimed that under favorable conditions a sugar-cane harvester can harvest as much as 1000 tons per 10-hour day. The cost may range $1.65 per ton.
A self-propelled cane harvester will weigh about 16,000 lb. it is powered by two 50-hp diesel engines. The whole machine is mounted on rubber-tired wheels. The two drive wheels are generally equipped with 13-38 high-lug cane-field tires.
The sugar-cane stalks are collected in piles or windows on the ground from which special hydraulic-actuated loaders are available to load the cane onto specially built wagons. The front tongs of the grapple fork are used to drag a bundle of stalks to the open hopper. Then the tongs are closed by hydraulic power and grip the stalks while the boom is lifted and swung over a special cane wagon.
Where cane must be transported several miles to the mill, the cane is transferred from the field wagon to large transport trailers or trucks.