In The Shop: Biggest Power-Hog on a Combine?

Published on: 19:10PM Aug 23, 2019

How many of you have combines with too much power? Uh-huh, as I suspected, nobody raised their hand. Combines never have enough power according to their operators. But when you look at the power ratings of the engines, there should be ponies to spare.

So where does all that horsepower go, between the spec sheet in the sales brochure and the driveway into the field? Right up front, consider the header. How many horsepower does a 12-row cornhead eat? It's tough to estimate, due to variations in stalk quality, stalk moisture, and ground speed. But several years ago an engineer with a major manufacturer offered a guess of, "up to 125 horsepower, maybe?"

At the other end, how much horsepower does a straw chopper pull? If you're combining green-stem beans, and then throw in a patch of water hemp that's still green, that engineers said he wouldn't be surprised for a chopper to eat, "75 horsepower, maybe more than 100, if the knives are dull."

How many horsepower does it take to simply move the combine through the field? On dry ground, maybe 50 horse when the grain tank is empty, and who knows how many when the tank with a whopper topper on it is full. Maybe as much as 100 horse gobbled up on a muddy day, trying to negotiate mudholes?

And then there there's the power required to simply thresh and separate the crop. Who wants to guesstimate the horsepower draw of threshing 25 percent corn with rubbery cobs, with lots of greenish trash on the sieves complicating the process. Maybe another at 100 or more horsepower?

So on an early fall day, harvesting 200-bushel, high-moisture corn in a muddy field, with a combine equipped with a whopper topper and dull chopper knives, you're looking at around at least 425 horsepower. Add a 16-row cornhead, deep mud, unloading-on-the-go, and all of a sudden that 450-horsepower that looked good in the sales brochure looks almost inadequate. 

Admit it: if they built a 1,000 horsepower combine, you guys would need 1,025 horsepower, wouldn't you? As my stock car racing friends say, "There's no such thing as too much horsepower."