Corn and bean harvest was in full swing last week (18-22 Sept). Soybeans seemed to be the crop of choice to harvest first while growers were waiting on the corn to dry down a bit more. I had a chance to operate one of the new model year ’18 S780 combines with the Combine Advisor Package installed in a cornfield not far from Assumption. Combine Advisor automatically helps maintain machine performance once the operator initially sets the machine. It has a high-speed camera on the clean grain and tailings elevators to monitor grain condition and tailings load in each respective elevator.
After the operator has set the machine to perform to his satisfaction, he will press the “set performance target” button and continue harvesting. Once this is done, the system goes into action. For the next few rounds in the field, it looks at the loss monitor for separator and shoe loss levels. It also inspects the free grain and trash levels in the tailings elevator via the tailings camera. Lastly, it checks out the clean grain camera for foreign material and broken kernels. During this period of time, approximately 10 min, it is learning the acceptable loss/damage/trash levels for each respective system. Once it completes this learning period the system is ready and active.
As the operator continues through the field, the system is monitoring all of the above conditions and is looking for one that is outside the range that it experienced during the 10 minute learning period. If it notices that one of the parameters is outside of acceptable levels, it will change one or more of the appropriate settings in the combine to try and correct the situation. For example, if the system saw that the amount of free grain detected by the tailings camera was above the learned period level, it would open the sieve to try and direct more of this free grain to the clean grain elevator. After the adjustment, the system will watch and see if the problem got better, got worse, or stayed the same for about 5-10 min. It will also see if any other areas were affected, like in this scenario, if more foreign material was also introduced into the clean grain system. If it lowered the free grain in the tailings, it would leave the sieve setting alone. If it saw that the foreign material level went up it might close the chaffer or increase the fan speed to try and mitigate that development as well.
I got to experience firsthand the machine making needed adjustments on the fly. We were harvesting corn in a field with 2 varieties. We set the machine in the driest variety and continued harvesting. It did have some small patches of replant in it, but the machine did not make “knee-jerk” adjustments when encountering the small patches of replant. The customer was receiving a discount on drying costs from an elevator and decided we would move to the other end of the field to the wetter variety to take advantage of the discount. I noticed shortly after I had moved to the new variety the combine had slowed the rotor and opened the concave. I knew this because it had turned those two setting blue on the monitor. I questioned why the combine had done this so I went to the performance history page and it showed me the reason for the change was because the broken grain levels had risen substantially. After the machine had evaluated the change for a couple rounds it left them in place as we continued on through the field. It made some other changes here and there to try and clean up the sample. Some of them it left in place but some of them it did not leave in place an put them back to the original. Once we got back into the drier variety the combine began to make adjustments again. When it had finished “readjusting” the settings were nearly exactly where they were when we left the drier variety the first time.
I have set many combines in many different situations over my 20-year career with John Deere and Sloan Implement. I can honestly say that this feature made me a better operator. Not because it knew what adjustment to make better than I did, but because it was constantly watching the performance of the machine while I had other distractions. I was also watching for drain sumps in the field. Is the grain cart operator too close or too far away from my auger? Am I going to make it to the end without running the grain tank over? Are there any trucks here because the cart is almost full? Am I running my deck plates too wide because I see a little corn shelling on the ground? Etc., etc., etc. Even if you are an experienced operator, you have many more things you are watching for as you run through the field in addition to keeping tabs on the performance of the machine. If you are not an experienced operator, you can feel more comfortable that the machine is watching and adjusting as needed to do a good job.
To be honest, I thought this new technology was going to be nothing more than another bell and whistle that was just going to result in more phone calls for me to deal with while helping growers understand it. I’m 99.9% sure I will still get some phone calls about it, but I think the value it brings will be worth it.
Thanks for spending your valuable time with me and hopefully this has given you some insights to the new Combine Advisor package. Please be safe out there and have a bountiful and profitable harvest this fall.
Sloan Support is written by the product support team at Sloan Implement, a 20 location John Deere dealer in Illinois and Wisconsin. Learn more at www.sloans.com