Thinking about investing in a draper-style small grain platform? Here's what you need to know in terms of setup and in-field operation.
Draper-style small grain platforms with flex cutterbars offer reductions in grain loss and improvements in overall combine performance if they are adjusted properly and operated correctly.
“Before anything else, make sure the header angle is correct,” says Jason Strobbe, MacDon’s North American sales manager. “You want the header angle adjusted according to the ground and crop conditions so the header harvests all the crop but doesn’t push dirt or debris.”
Check header angle in the field to accommodate soft soils that influence the angle of the header in relation to the stance of the combine. Lower the header until the cutterbar is just above the ground. From one end of the header, sight down the cutterbar and compare its front-to-rear angle to the surface of the ground. Adjust the angle of the header so the cutterbar is parallel to the ground, or possibly one to two degrees “down” at the front. Note the angle of the header on the combine’s cornerpost display so that angle can be maintained or adjusted from that baseline as crop conditions change.
Match reel position to crop conditions. Reel settings for draper platforms are dramatically different from what operators are used to with conventional auger-style platforms.
“With a conventional auger platform, the reel is generally (positioned) down and as far back as possible, to keep the crop pressed against the auger so the auger can move it across and into the feederhouse,” Strobbe says. “With a draper we want the reel more forward and raised, so the tines are only into the top of the crop an inch or two, with the reel speed just slightly faster than the ground speed of the combine.
“You want the reel to engage the crop just enough, at the moment the cutterbar cuts it, to tip those stems back onto the draper belt,” he says. “If you run the reel too deep, too far back, or too fast, stems will start to wrap (on the reel.)”
Angle of reel tines is important. Case IH’s Ryan Blasiak says reel tines should be perpendicular to the cutterbar when laying the crop on the draper belts to allow the tines to smoothly release the material without wrapping. In normal conditions tines tilted ahead or behind “vertical” tend to increase wrapping on the reel bats.
AGCO’s Brent Kvasnicka notes that modern draper platforms incorporate an adjustable hydraulic system to control down pressure of the cutterbar during operation.
He explains that if the operator increases pressure in the cutterbar down pressure system, more of the weight of the cutterbar is carried by small hydraulic cylinders under the header frame, making it less “heavy” and therefore less likely to “push” under damp or soft soil conditions.
If the operator reduces the pressure in the down pressure control system, less of the cutterbar’s weight is supported by the small hydraulic cylinders. The cutterbar becomes “heavier” but more flexible and therefore better able to follow surface irregularities. But the increased weight and contact with the soil surface can lead to “pushing” in damp or soft soils.
Cutterbar down-pressure also influences a situation unique to flex draper platforms.
“Drapers don’t like dirt and debris getting between the belts and rollers,” Strobbe says. “There are specific designs in the C-bar area [of a MacDon platform] to keep material out of those areas. Any material that gets between the top and bottom runs of the belts can wrap around the drive and idler shafts. It’s important to keep this area of the platform adjusted and to avoid forcing the cutterbar against the ground in really soft soil conditions.”
To learn more on draper platforms, read: Belts Boost Harvest Efficiency.