Combine tuning means money
By Peter Darbishire
Pre-harvest adjustments improve crop quality.
Being told its combines could not meet the task was like a kick in the shins
to John Deere's Rich Bull, who has taken on the challenge of proving to specialty
grain receivers that the company's conventional and STS combines can deliver
the high quality demanded in crops like popcorn and dry beans.
Now, as Deere's project manager for combine harvesting and grain management,
he is helping dealers in various regions of the US and Canada to partner with
selected receivers of edible dry beans and specialty soybeans and other sensitive
crops with a 'Grain Quality Delivery System'. The first pilot program of this
system in Canada began in 2004, with John Deere's dealer Huron Tractor in Exeter
and the Hensall District Co-op (HDC) at Hensall, Ontario.
Season-to-season conditions play a major role in crop quality and end-use buyers
are notoriously particular when it comes to inspection. So, whether it is dirt
tag, foreign material, seed coat cracks, discolouration or splits, it is the
receiver's responsibility to separate these out and to deduct it from the loads
the grower delivers as dockage.
The combine operator can reduce this dockage significantly, to the tune of
$5 per acre or more, and this is being proven by many Huron Tractor-HDC farmers
in Huron, Perth and Middlesex counties who participated in the Grain Quality
Delivery System in 2004.
These growers attended a workshop in August to review combine settings and
maintenance. They were encouraged to either inspect their own combines and make
adjustments or have a technician do so. Many responded and reaped the rewards:
Steve Kennedy, of Ilderton, says one of the adjustments he made was to change
the clearance of the cross-auger so that beans are not forced into the elevating
"Proper combine set up for bean harvest after wheat harvest is just as
important as the adjustments an operator would normally make as the crop dries
off during the day's harvesting," says Huron Tractor's service manager,
Charlie Wise. "In 2004, conditions were so dry that farmers had to be very
gentle on the crop. Setting the combine correctly, from the cutterbar to the
hopper, paid off for the users who took the time."
At HDC, field marketing manager, Murray Insley noticed a marked improvement
in dockage charged against participants in the program. "One grower reduced
his dockage on black turtle beans from 8.1 to 1.1 percent. In beans being harvested
at 15.5 percent moisture that is very significant."
Bull says what has been witnessed in Ontario mirrors what has happened in other
regions. "Our mutual customers have benefitted from the program in these
sensitive crops and the rest of their crops. They tend to develop good 'quality
habits' and do the checks that are often overlooked."
"At harvest, there is always pressure to get the job done," says
Wise. "Some are very particular about ensuring quality and others are more
intent on acres per hour (higher harvest speed)." In his view, all users
can achieve greater returns by taking the time to prepare the combine and make
more adjustments throughout the day. Doing a better job on harvested quality
does not always mean sacrificing harvest rate. The goal should be high quality
and high productivity, and it is achievable, based on the results seen from
"Combines were getting a bad rap for beans coming out of storage,"
says Bull. "We now know, through this program, that users can make more
money from their crop, without slowing down."