Last week, I introduced some of the new products for combines in my “Head Loss and Residue Management” blog. This week, it’s time to go all the way back to the basics of the combine monitor, and talk about the parts, pieces, and preparation we need to be on top of so we are ready for harvest. We need to think about our combine, and specifically our Yield Monitor as more than just a convenience. While it certainly is useful during harvest to manage the logistics of what’s going on, it’s the data that we should be concerned about. We need to quit thinking about the data as a report card for the year, but more of your fields’ transcript. It’s a snapshot that represents a larger body of work, and a piece that will be more important in the next generation of farming.
Whether you have an OEM or aftermarket Harvest Monitor, the parts are the same and need to be checked. Starting at the throat of the combine, we need to make sure that our head height sensor is functioning properly, and triggers at the correct point for each head. The head height sensor controls the acre logging, and if we count too many or too few acres, it will impact our yield average. Next, we need to check the moisture sensor; this may be located on the outside of the clean grain elevator, or inside the tank. Either way, it should be taken apart and made sure it is clean, clear of last year’s crop, and doesn’t have rodent damage. If you find crop caked in it, it means that last year, your moisture wasn’t accurate for some time. In many cases, there is a small auger as part of this sensor that moves grain past it. Make sure that the fuse is good going to the motor, and that it turns freely.
Then we need to proceed to the top of the clean grain elevator. This is where the flow sensor is located. The flow sensor should be free of debris and rodent damage. The impact plate, or pad the grain hits should be consistent in size and texture. This is a wear point item. It needs to be replaced every 2-4 thousand acres depending on the machine. Also while you’re here, look at the top of your elevator. Often there are deflectors that guide grain to the flow sensor. Inspect them for wear also. Finally, it’s always a good idea to have somebody get the slug wrench out and do one full turn of the elevator chain, looking for loose or missing lugs (New Holland has three missing lugs intentionally on some combines).
Now that you’ve inspected the hardware it’s time to get in the cab. Make sure that the monitor is prepared, with last year’s harvest data removed, and that you know if the data card is supposed to be in or out. Check to make sure field names are there as well. Pull outside and check that the monitor gets GPS signal. When you get the head on, do a vibration calibration if your monitor calls for it with each of the heads on for their respective crop.
I cannot stress this enough either. Do a calibration per your yield monitors instructions every year. If you have adjusted the elevator chain tension, replaced the impact plate, or any of a number of other things, it makes a difference. And work with the recommended load size. All of this matters to get the most out of your display. And finally, have realistic expectations. Different monitors will have varying accuracy. A calibrated Pro 700 performs with a 2-5% error, while a calibrated Ag Leader display should be 0.1-2% error. It all has to do with how each calibrates. If you are using your maps for more than just record keeping, then perhaps you need to consider upgrading to an aftermarket monitor for more accuracy and features.
If you are ready to make the next step in farming with more prescriptions built around your field, then all of this is crucial to the process. Poor planning = poor results. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming to you, or you just want to make sure it’s done right, don’t hesitate to get a hold of on of the ACS Equipment Technicians. It doesn’t take them long to inspect the harvest monitor side of your machine. And I guarantee you will never get a second chance to record the data from this harvest.