Another Calibration Consideration
Aug 17, 2018
Many customers downplay the importance of calibrating the grain loss monitor in their combine. "I check behind the combine," they say. "I'm the grain loss monitor in this operation." I respect that strategy, but can see a time in the future when combine operators will have to take the time to calibrate the grain loss monitor system and understand how it works.
That's because the next generation of combines are being designed to self-adjust to minimize grain loss and optimize yields. The machines will keep track of grain moisture, monitor losses off the rotor and sieves, then automatically adjust rotor/concave settings, rotor speed, cleaning fan speed and sieve settings to minimize grain loss. Heck, push the right buttons, and it will do all those things PLUS speed up or slow down the combine to maintain the optimum amount of crop flowing through the machine.
It's going to take a lot of computers to do all that fine-tuning, but guess what all those computers will use to make their decisions? Grain loss monitors. There will be other inputs, but the core of those self-adjusting systems will be whether or not the grain loss monitor system says the combine is putting grain out the back. So learning how a combine's grain loss monitor system works, and learning how to calibrate that system and keep it calibrated throughout harvest, is going to be a big deal.
Yes, there will be a way to turn off all that fancy stuff and simply combine like you used to, where you are the grain loss monitor system and make adjustments based on your experience. But once the engineers get the bugs out of the new-fangled systems, automatically adjusted combines are going to make you obsolete.
That's because the best you can do as the "walking grain loss monitor" is check and adjust a couple times a round. Those new systems will monitor and adjust every foot of every pass through the field, over hills and through the low spots, adjusting every time something needs to be adjusted. Ultimately, those machines will probably do a better job, constantly minimizing grain loss throughout harvest, compared to a spot-check every hour or two or whenever the operator has to stop and take a leak.
(Update....after posting this last night, I decided I need to come back on and apologize for being a little harsh with my comments. Trust me--I'm not in love with all this computerized stuff. At the outset, new computerized systems generally don't work well, take a lot of adjusting and updating, and generally are a pain in the posterior. But given time, the manufacturers get the bugs worked out and things work pretty well. Remember all the problems we had when auto-steer first came out? Now those systems run pretty darned well. I predict the same for all these new systems on combines.
Every time something new comes along and shakes up the agricultural world, I remind myself of stubborn farmers back in the '60s who swore they could do a better job running a soybean header close to the ground, rather than messing around with, "...one of those new-fangled automatic header height control things...")