New Harvest Tech at Work

Farmer Iron

Linking combine and tractor at harvest offered an efficiency boost in drought-hit fields.

Published on: January 31, 2013

I know I'm pretty lucky because I get to see new equipment in action pretty early. Sometimes when you see a new tool demonstrated, however, you wonder how it will work in the "real world." I know equipment and tech makers are constantly testing what they build, but still the skeptic in me wonders just what will happen.

Take John Deere's Machine Sync System which allows the combine operator to "link" to the tractor pulling the grain cart and enhance unloading on the go. It's a nifty technology, geared toward allowing just about anyone to drive that auger wagon tractor. But does it really  have a value?

In a conversation with one Iowa farmer recently I got some perspective about how this kind of technology can pay off. The drought of 2012 did create fields with widely variable yields. You could get sick watching the yield monitor in real time as yields popped up above 200 bushels per acre in some areas and crashed to zero in others.

For a combine operator going through high- and low-yielding areas of the field you're going to want to move faster and slower to cut down on harvest time. With Machine Sync, this farmer found he could do that and not worry about the tractor beside him as he unloaded on the go. With the tractor and combine linked, the combine operator could change speeds at will as he unloaded grain.

That's a productivity boost because you can harvest as fast as practical. And frankly, the most experience tractor driver in North America wouldn't be able to change speeds that fast on their own.

Not every year is like 2012 (thank heavens) but this example shows one way new tech is providing enhanced productivity on the farm. Kinze's driver-less technology for the unloading tractor offers the same potential since combine and tractor also "connect" during the unload process. And I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more tech like this soon.

An interesting tech opportunity to ponder for 2013.