Make Your Combine Ready for Harvest -- From Extinguishers to Calibration

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Running multiple calibration loads improves accuracy when calibrating yield monitors. Get a reading on moisture by sampling each load with a calibrated meter. Use that data when calibrating the mass flow sensor. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)

As harvest 2021 gets underway, take a bit of time to make one last check under the hood of your combine; clear out the debris and calibrate, calibrate, calibrate.

DTN/Progressive Farmer talked with New Holland's aftermarket solutions manager for harvesting, Jim Franceschetti, about fall combine preparations. He offered a 10-step plan for getting the best harvesting results. Top of the list -- although it's down toward the bottom of this article -- is calibration. Franceschetti said relying on last year's calibrations is not recommended.

Here is Franceschetti's list of Top 10 Combine Maintenance Tips:

1. Establish a safety routine. Start with safety glasses and other personal protective equipment (PPE). If you're looking at something from below, safety glasses keep dirt and other debris from falling into your eyes. Keep a spatial awareness around the combine for things like open side panels or the far edges of the headers. Check that the safety features of the combine are up to par, such as lights and fire extinguishers.

2. Prevent fall fires. Keep an air compressor or leaf blower handy. When you shut down for the day, lift the side panels and thoroughly blow out all the debris.

3. Time for preparation. Give yourself ample time before harvest to look around the machine, refamiliarize yourself with the technology, calibrate, and make sure that you're satisfied with all the settings.

4. Goal of header adjustments. The goal is to get the cleanest cut possible and get as much of the crop as possible into the header and fed through the feeder house and thresher to maximize yield. There are things you want to watch out for depending on the type of header you are using. If you're harvesting corn, make sure the stripper roles are spaced properly. If not done, it could lead to significant grain loss. On the grain header, make sure the speed of the reels on the grain header matches the speed of the combine. This all facilitates smooth, even crop flow into the cutter bar -- ensure the cutter bar is clean -- and then into the combine.

5. Control grain damage. Make sure all the major components of the feeder house are in good condition. Check the feeder chains for wear. Check the flats, the rollers and tension. If there is excessive movement between the links, it is time to replace the chains. Check the chain bars in the feeder house. Make sure they are not bent or twisted. New Holland CR combines have the Dynamic Feed Roll feature that delivers harvested grain uniformly to the twin rotors while directing stones and other debris into a dedicated trap emptied automatically with the Dynamic Feed Roll reversing system. Streamlined feeding can increase capacity by up to 10%. It needs to be functioning correctly to ensure smooth crop flow into the threshing system.

6. Art of the thresher. Good threshing performance is a balance between rotor speed and concave clearance. Cylinder or rotor speed is the leading cause of grain damage. Use the lowest possible rotor speed that will shell the grain. Three other suggestions. First, tap into that good relationship you have with your dealer. You may operate one or two combines; they have seen dozens. They know tricks to match local field conditions to the operation of the combine. Second, when you're making adjustments, it's a good idea to make only one adjustment at a time. This helps pinpoint other adjustments to make. Three, newer combines are loaded with technology. It might have been a year since you last set eyes on your combine. Make sure those functions -- New Holland's IntelliSense combine automation system, for example -- are properly calibrated.

7. Get that clean grain. Calibrate the fan speed and make sure the sieve openings are correct. Consistency and speed help with even and smooth distribution to the twin rotors. You don't want grain piling up on one side or the other, which will result in uneven crop flow and may clog the combine threshing system. Most of these adjustments are made automatically.

8. Benefit of kill stall. Operators often do a kill stall to examine the actual harvesting functions of the combine. The kill stall puts the threshing process in a frozen state. It's a good way to check the adjustments made before harvest and to see how the combine is operating in the field.

9. In the cab. Make sure that you're not just trusting last year's harvest calibrations. Running multiple calibration loads provides greater accuracy when calibrating yield monitors. While harvesting calibration loads, get a reading on moisture by sampling each load with a calibrated meter. Use that data when calibrating the mass flow sensor.

10. Combine clinics. It's a good idea to attend a combine clinic. It's time for operators to get into the dealership, to learn from their experts and suppliers, and perhaps, manufacturer technicians and engineers. It also creates opportunities to speak with other producers, learn their successful practices and harvesting tricks.

Dan Miller can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF


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