In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Update From The Front Lines Of Harvest
Sep 16, 2012
I've never seen crops vary so much, nor combines require such diverse settings and frequent adjustments. Combine adjustments that work great at one end of a field cause large crop losses at the other end of the same field. The policy of setting a combine once at the beginning of harvest for corn and once again for soybeans, then harvesting those crops with only minor tweaks is a sure guarantee to leave lots of $8 corn and $17 soybeans in the fields.
Here are some of the things I've noticed about combine performance this fall:
-The black mold, fungus and poor stalk quality is wreaking havoc on engine air filters. A lot of guys are having to clean their engine air filters daily. In general, most engine manufacturers are comfortable with blowing out the OUTER air filter, but discourage cleaning the INNER air filter. When that inner filter becomes dirty or darkly discolored, replace it rather than clean it.
-Check your cab air filter frequently. It's not just for your comfort--if that filter gets completely plugged it overworks the cab filter fan(s) and can "burn" them out so they require replacement.
-Concave, rotor/cylinder, and other separator settings are all over the board, depending on the condition of the crop. In general, we're seeing concave settings in corn up to 1/3 tighter than normal due to small cobs. Soybeans--as of this week when stems and pods are tending green in our area--seem to favor tighter concave settings as well. Small corn kernals and small soybeans mean smaller sieve openings are working well. Oddly, grain test weights have been unusually high in our territory, so higher cleaning fan speeds have worked well to separate the wet crop debris from the heavier grain.
-In corn, deck plate settings have been critical. Guys are getting blistered thumbs from constantly adjusting the buttons on their hydro handles that control deck plate width, trying match stalk and ear size to minimize header losses. If you don't have cab-adjustable deck plates, the best you can do is set them tight then slow your ground speed in areas where stalks are "thicker" and speed up in areas where small stalks and small ears want to go through the deck plates or butt-shell on the snapping rolls.
-So far, despite the dry conditions, we've had no combine fires. That's amazing. Our customers are doing a great job of blowing off combines daily. Sometimes twice a day. It's a dirty, unpleasant job, but I firmly believe that sort of attention to detail is behind the reduction in combine fires. Plus, we've got a bunch of sharp-eyed grain cart drivers who have learned or been taught to visually inspect combines from front to rear every time they approach to catch a load of grain.