Friday, September 09, 2011

Forever A Gearhead


And farms have machinery out the wazoo in this 'hood. I've put combine and harvest videos up before, plus I've put up AGCO promotional stuff on the site as well. Welp, they happen to film a lot of their stuff in this area, because they have a very strong AGCO dealer right up the road from me. So I'm not really shilling for Gleaner combines, even though I do have a fondness for them.

The main reason I'm posting this is because of my buddy Spud. Spud is an truck owner operator who hauls grain. Harvests are gravy time for grain haulers - I oughta know, since I did it for ten odd years. At any rate, at about the forty second mark you'll see a Gleaner swinging out the unloading auger and approaching Spud's pride and joy to unload. That would be a black Peterbilt model 359 extended hood - I can't remember the year, but it was made in the eighties. Spud does it old school. The power comes from one of the classic CAT motors - a 3406B rated at 425hp - the ol' four and a quarter kitty cat. It's backed up by the old classic hot rod transmission - the "Fifteen Over." I've mentioned this tranny before, but basically it shifts with the same pattern as most, but with the top two "holes" switched.

Another thing the video shows is a John Deere combine unloading "on the go." I've talked about this before as well, but I don't recall having video to back it up. A tractor pulling a grain cart is positioned beside the combine as it continues cutting so it can unload without stopping. You might notice the Deere unloading auger goes straight out from the top of the machine. There are several universal joints and bends in their unloading auger so the grain goes straight up to the horizontal auger from the bin to carry across to dump. The Gleaner tube is only slightly bent, so the grain runs out the bin and then up an angle to unload. Gleaner's solution is simpler and lighter, but having the auger at that angle makes unloading on the go more difficult in rough ground. If the combine's left front wheel drops into a hole, the auger drops and can hit the top of the grain cart. This is not a good thing. The Deere and most other combines won't have that problem. It's not like farmers have to replace tubes every other day - but it can and has happened, and the operator must be aware.

Another cool thang shown are some Shelbourne Reynolds stripper headers. Those are the blue headers attached to several combines in the video. They are designed to "strip" the heads of wheat from the straw rather than cutting the entire plant at a level below the heads. This is advantageous for the machine, since less straw is processed. It also leaves the wheat straw relatively intact in the field, in case the farmer wants to save it for baling.

Another thing that is mentioned quite a bit is no-till farming. I've only mentioned it in passing in previous posts, because, frankly - I have absolutely no experience with the practice. All I know for sure is that just about every piece of equipment a farmer has becomes obsolete and must be replaced by a no-till alternative. Herbicide usage is increased considerably as well. It is becoming more prevalent for sure. Farmers are, as a rule, very resistant to change, and convincing them that they need to abandon what has been working so far for so long and spend a ton of money besides? Air seeders don't come cheap, nor do the fertilizer applicators and so on. I found it interesting that compaction is such an issue with no-till. Compaction is an issue with conventional tilling if you work the ground with the same implement in the same way over and over - because the tractor runs in the same spots all the time. Part of the conventional tilling strategy is to use chisels to dig in and break up the top layers, plus alternate how you "work" a field. This time - "round and round" where you start on the outside edges and just keep driving around until you get to the center, or "back and forth" where ya pick an angle sideways to the wind and just start working in one directions - down that angle to the end, turn around and come back until done.

But just the weight of the combine alone causing compaction problems - well, I'd never thought about that before. There are aftermarket track conversions that use belted crawler tracks to spread the weight and help traction primarily in rice fields. Something to consider for sure.

And I guarantee you the height of the machines are an issue. Gleaners are a Class 7 combine, and the others compared are all Class 8s, which are not only higher and heavier, but wider as well. I've heard of some custom harvesters who have to remove the wheels from their machines to transport them. Kinda makes tearing down and setting up more of a pain for sure. A lot of combines have bin extensions that make the onboard grain bin higher so it can hold more. These usually have folding capabilities, but they are manual. The headers are very close to being drop and hook - there are hydraulic hoses and perhaps some shaft connectors to fool with. The shafts will have a sliding connector on splines, and the hoses have quick connectors. Some sort of lowboy trailer is preferred to haul these monsters - and it's far easier just to drive the machine on the trailer than having to fool with jacks and such to get it lowered enough to haul. Having a combine under 13'6" before loading helps immeasurably with your routing. If you have a trailer that has it's loading platform a foot off the ground, staying near fourteen feet really really and truly makes a huge difference. It's been my experience that just getting under most interstates is a problem - running on an interstate is usually easier. The harvest "runs" south to north through rural areas, so there aren't a lot of major interstates a custom harvester can take. But they have to cross I40, I70, I80, I90 and I94. A lot of highways go under those interstates, and most are low clearance - under fifteen or so feet. Low clearance for us starts a lot higher than it does for the average trucker. There are places where the northbound road crosses over rather than under, and those are the routes both we and the harvesters are required to follow as a rule.

At any rate, this is an instructive video in that it shows several aspects of harvest most never see. It should also be noted that if one thinks I'm shilling for AGCO, keep in mind that my ultimate boss owns (among many other things including the largest oil exploration company in Kansas) a CaseIH dealership. I oughta be praising the whee right outta those Binder machines! Honestly, I like them as well - the simplicity of their design makes working on one far easier than most. In this day and age, there are really no bad choices in selecting a combine. What is more important is that the local dealership is capable and willing to support that machine with a good stock of parts and a shop that knows how to work on one. The John Deere dealer network is so large and dense that their parts availability is legendary - if one dealer doesn't have it, one nearby will, so parts can be purchased and installed within the day after a breakdown rather than waiting for what you need to be shipped in. That is a comfort zone that lots of farmers never want to leave.

Anyways, hope ya enjoy this little peek into wheat harvest!


Lisa Paul said...

Now work these into NASCAR and I think you've got something.

drjim said...

I *always* enjoy reading about this stuff when you write it!

Frank W. James said...

You know I read this post and watched the video the other night and as you know I'm a fan of Gleaners. I've run 'em all my farming career, but that stuff about soil compaction didn't sit with me and it's been giving me heartburn ever since.

Back here in Indiana/Illinois/Ohio country soil compaction is usually associated with 2 things; poorly drained soils or going to the field too early when it is still too wet to work.

Is that a problem now in dryland Kansas?

I would have to see a lot more data and material on this to fully understand the problem because I know Kansas doesn't have near the drainage problem we do, but somehow this 'problem' just doesn't 'sit' with my personal experience.

In short, I'm skeptical and I'm a Gleaner man...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Jeffro said...

Since the video was addressing no-till I couldn't give you a good answer. I do know Dad and I could notice it when we worked our terraced ground along the contours repeatedly with the same tractor and implement. We were using a Noble 3x6 with a set of add on Richardson chicken pickers, and we noticed the patterns. Plus, the soil never really closed completely behind the frogs, so there were long "trenches" after a while. To avoid that, we'd go ahead and "outline" the terraces and then work back and forth at right angles to the wind at the time. Of course, the direction would be one way in the morning and change in the evening, so the dirt would follow us. That was an issue with our water cooler on the ol' Case 930!

Nowadays no one terraces ground or keeps them up - they just work over the tops and all of Dad's investment has basically disappeared from the rental ground he'd worked over. The tops and sides of the little rises there have also ended up on the bottom of the draw as well.

Frank W. James said...

It must be the difference between our amount of rainfall per year and the fact that each winter our frostline goes down approximately 3 feet to freeze and crumble the ground.

I know if we have a 'mild' winter and the frost don't go deep, our ground is harder than hammered Hell to work in the Spring. Sometimes to the point it induces tire wear.

Anyway, it's an aspect I've never heard before. Of course back here Gleaner is a big time 'off' brand as everything is either red or green...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Frank W. James said...

As far as the 'no-till' aspect goes, I no-till my soybeans, but I don't buy it for corn. There are 3 big no-tiller proponents for corn in our area, one of whom is my next door neighbor.

For it to work around here you have to keep your ground pretty mellow or you hamper root growth. that's why I still believe in working the ground...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Jeffro said...

If we work our ground when it's a little too wet, it will turn into monster clods that eventually have to be broken - but since we're summer fallowing, working it again is a given. If we use offset disks or one ways too much, the ground gets real mellow and there is no ground cover to hold it in a wind.

But that's right here in the immediate area. The further south the sandier the soil - particularly south of the Arkansas river. Even the ground to the west of us is sandier. Most of that ground is irrigated as well - we have several wells within about three or four miles and then well beyond. This area is at the edge of the irrigated areas.

And continual baking of the ground without moisture will harden it, too. I'll bet the wheat stubble ground is harder than hammered hell right now.