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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

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.

In The Shop: Prepping Your Head For Harvest

Sep 04, 2011

The mental aspect of harvest is more important than ever during this year's harvest. In a story in the September issue of "Farm Journal Magazine" about minimizing grain loss during harvest, Jeff Gray of Claas Lexion notes that farmers tend to target ground speed with their combines rather than optimum yield. During interviews for the story he commented that driving a combine is an "active" job, and not merely sitting and steering while maintaining a consistent 4 or 5 miles an hour.

He noted that modern combines equipped with computers that control ground speed to optimize threshing and minimize grain losses frequently speed up or slow down as they churn through fields. That's because optimum combine performance is a complex interaction between crop yield, crop condition, combine engine rpm and combine ground speed. Crop yields vary across a field; engine rpm must be maintained, leaving ground speed as the variable the operator has to "adjust" changes in yield. 

So. One of the biggest challenges for combine operators is to mentally prepare themselves to actively operate their combines. Steve Luther, assistant field manager for Stine Seed Company, oversees five combines that harvest more than 10,000 acres of precious seed beans and seed corn each fall. Luther says there's a difference between a combine "driver" and a combine "operator." "A combine driver sits, steers, and listens to the radio," says Luther. "A combine operator is constantly watching the grain loss monitor system, listening to the machine, watching the way crop is feeding in, watching the quality of grain in the tank--he's working at running that machine."

Gray, with Claas Lexion, also noted the difference between a combine driver and a combine operator. According to him, combine operators leave less than 1 percent of total grain yield in the field, while combine drivers can leave more than 2 to 5 percent of potential profit lying in the dirt. Two percent of corn yielding 150 bushels per acre is 3 bushels per acre. With March corn prices tickling the $8/bu. mark, that's $24/acre of pure profit left in the field. 

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