Harvest 2020 Value Stories: Draper Head Adjustments

by Nick Palczynski

This story is part of the 2020 Harvest Value Stories Series. This series includes various real world examples of challenges growers face each harvest season. We want to show the impact that understanding harvest loss differently can have on an operations profitability and performance.

During the 2020 harvest season, the Farmwave Harvest Vision System demo version covered almost 40,000 acres. Growers experienced incredible moments firsthand. For the first time, growers saw loss from the header, providing them with the data to adjust settings in real time to reduce actual loss from their combines. In 2020, our visits to farms meant the FHVS encountered a variety of environments, terrain, and crop conditions. The variance in crop conditions we experienced were very wide.  Crop conditions ranged from 9% moisture corn, showing greater than ten bushels per acre of loss, too late plant soybeans at 18% moisture showing a bushel per acre loss. Most importantly, our field-tested data allow us to build resilient, accurate, and trustworthy harvest loss AI models for real world decision making. 

Harvest Details

  • Crop: Soybeans
  • Crop Condition: Good
  • Grain Moisture: 14% 
  • Location: Northern Illinois
  • Terrain: Hilly with grass water run offs 
  • Weather: Sunny and Clear 
  • Machinery: Case 6150
  • Header: MacDon FD135
  • Field Acres: 120 

It was a beautiful day in October when we arrived at the field in Northern Illinois. The soybean harvest was already underway with head lands mostly completed. The yields in the field were acceptable given the crop was in pretty good condition.  We deployed our hardware and began on the back-and-forth passes. We were about 6 passes in and closely watching the vision loss system.

Immediately, it became very clear that the right side of the header was creating substantially more loss than the left side of the header. The left side of the header was averaging roughly 4-6 beans per square foot which is roughly 1.5 bushels of loss per acre and the right side of the header was averaging 17-20 beans per square foot which roughly equates to 5.5 bushels per acre. The operator saw what was taking place and decided to stop and see if he could address the discrepancy.  

After reviewing the header settings, he found that the right side of the draper head was carrying, meaning it was not matching the contour of the ground, which caused the head to cut the beans too high and to cut the pods, causing more loss. Once it was recognized what was happening the operator stopped the combine and his team spent some time making adjustments to the right side of the header. In total, the harvest process was stopped for less than 20 minutes.  Upon restart, we saw that both the right and the left side of the head were now showing consistently similar loss rates at roughly 4-6 beans per square foot. 

In total, we had covered about 20 acres prior to making the adjustments to the header. We helped the grower retain about four bushels of soybeans per acre. At today’s market price of $14.08 per bushel, this savings over the remaining one hundred acres helped the grower to retain over $5,500 in a single field. Over the remaining 700 acres of soybeans the grower had left to harvest there was a savings of over $39,000. 

"If I can stop and invest a small amount of time to make machinery adjustments to improve my yields, I will do it ever time." - Northern Illinois Grower

MacDon Header Adjustments