Playing Detective About Combine Performance
Nov 12, 2017
Make notes now to improve combine performance next harvest:
-Do you have "beaver huts" in your soybean fields after harvest? Irregular wads or bunches of soybean straw across a field are often due to bunch feeding at the platform. A reel that is out-of-phase from side to side will feed good on one side of the platform, but build up bunches ahead of the auger on the side that is slightly forward or higher. Make a point to run the reel all the way forward and all the way back twice a day to rephase the hydraulic cylinders. If the reel won't stay in phase (front to rear, OR up and down) for more than a round or two, make a note to have the hydraulic system checked before next harvest.
-Did lots of volunteer grain sprout in your fields after harvest? If the density of sprouted grain varies across the field, wrack your memory to recall "What changed?" at the point where sprouts increase or decrease. Operators who were doing a good job before shutting down in the evening often see an increase in grain loss if they keep the same machine settings when they start with dewy crops the next morning.
-An interesting lesson is to note sprouts that develop in half-moon arcs on headlands. A little study often shows those arcs of lost grain are where the combine emptied-out as it turned on the headland. Which shows how sensitive modern combines are to running less than full of crop.
-Someday somebody will tie grain loss monitors to their GPS mapping system, and operators will be able to "map" grain loss across fields in the same way they now map yields. Those maps will dramatically change the way operators operate their machines, when they see how sensitive combines are to variations in ground speed, crop density, crop moisture and other variables.
-Those small pieces of ragged metal you pulled from auger hoppers while unloading trucks? They probably came from somewhere inside the combine. Take them to your local dealership and pass them around among the mechanics. There's a good chance they'll recognize where they came from in the combine, and help you decide what repairs need to be made during the off season.