Major Progress In Harvest Iron

Case IH Autonomous concept vehicle
Although its autonomous concept vehicle was developed in the form of a cabless tractor, Case IH says combines and other equipment would operate on the same technology.

Not to be outdone by advances in precision on the planter, spreader, and sprayer ends of the business, combine manufacturers debuted loads of improvements in their units this year. The changes not only provide better performance in varied field conditions but allow growers to track yield information more accurately.

John Deere S-Series combine
John Deere S-Series combines include Active Terrain Adjustment factory-installed.

This year saw some of most extensive updates to John Deere harvesting products since the introduction of the S-Series combines years ago, says Jon Gilbeck, Division Marketing Manager for John Deere Harvesting Works.

Precision-wise, Deere made Active Terrain Adjustment available as a factory-installed option for all 2016 models of S-Series combines. This technology automatically controls the fan speed and sieve/chaffer openings as the combine travels up and down hilly terrain. This optimizes the harvesting performance of the combine and minimizes grain loss on slopes.

To improve accuracy and reliability of yield data collected during harvest, Deere introduced Active Yield with automated calibration. This feature greatly reduces the time that operators spend calibrating the yield monitor and provides more accurate yield data from field to field, says Gilbeck.

AGCO’s introduction this year of its Gleaner S9 Series combines provides the latest and most advanced precision farming capabilities available from the company on the harvesting front, says Caleb Schleder, Tactical Marketing Manager, Combines. The units offer live mapping (yield and moisture) using either FieldStar Live or AgLeader Live, as well as wireless data transfer, TaskDoc software for task management and record keeping, the Auto-Guide guidance system, AgCommand machine monitoring (two levels) and Fuse Connected Services for remote equipment and operational support from the dealer.

AGCO Gleaner S9 combine
AGCO’s Gleaner S9 combines can do mapping of both yield/moisture using either FieldStar Live or Ag Leader Live.

“These features are all accessed through the combine’s integrated Tyton terminal — a 10.4-inch, easy-to-use, easy-to-read touch screen with Gleaner-specific graphics and operation created specifically for harvesting,” Schleder explains.

For 2016, Case IH redesigned its Axial-Flow 140 series combines to include important upgrades such as an improved transmission, an enhanced CrossFlow cleaning system, higher capacity grain handling, better residue management and a more intuitive user interface. One precision enhancement: Users can now choose from among six lightweight concave designs — allowing the combines to be tailored more to different crops and field types. In fact, at 38 pounds, the new concaves weigh less than half that of previous models, says Nate Weinkauf, manager, cash crop marketing. Every little bit helps here in reducing soil compaction.

Moving Closer to Automated Harvest

“Robotic” harvesting is one of the next frontiers that the big iron companies are working on. The goal is to create autonomous machines that are remotely controlled using telematics. Among the firms making advances in this technology are AGCO, John Deere, Case IH and Kinze Manufacturing.

Kinze engineers have developed an autonomous grain cart system (designed to plug into any tractor) in which the cart follows a combine through the field at safe distance. The system allows farmers to keep their combine running during the brief harvest window without needing an extra person in the field to run the tractor and cart, explains Phil Jennings, Kinze Service Manager. For harvesting, the system — directed by a grower’s tablet — utilizes five primary modes of operation: Follow, Unload, Park, Idle and Go To.

Case IH unveiled its autonomous tractor concept at this year’s Farm Progress Show, and company executives emphasized that combines or other equipment would operate on the same technology.

The vehicle — based on Case’s existing Magnum tractor with reimagined styling — was built for a fully interactive interface to allow for remote monitoring of preprogrammed operations. The onboard system automatically accounts for implement widths and plots the most efficient paths depending on the terrain, obstructions and other machines in use in the same field. The remote operator can supervise and adjust pathways via a desktop computer or portable tablet.

Leo Bose, Advanced Farming Systems (AFS) Marketing Manager, points out that Case IH was aiming to gauge reactions from growers. “It’s not a product launch, by any means. But it could certainly lead to one, or several, down the road,” he says.

Launched in 2011, AGCO’s Fendt GuideConnect leader-follower technology also connects two machines by means of GNSS signal and radio, so that both can be controlled by just one driver. AGCO is continuing to develop the concept based on customers’ input on their farming needs, says Sepp Nuscheler, Fendt Senior Communications Manager at AGCO. “This is going to be a key piece for the future of large-scale farming in various set-ups.”

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