As crop prices increase, the financial value of field losses during harvesting can become pretty significant. So time spent fine tuning combine adjustments can pay dividends. But properly sampling losses during harvesting can be difficult, especially for anyone working alone. However, Roland Requier of Westlock, Alberta, has created a handy device designed to deal with just that problem.
His invention uses a detachable collection screen 18 inches long and five feet wide, which is held up, under the combine body by an electromagnet. Any time the operator wants to collect a sample, he or she simply cuts off electricity to the magnet, which then drops the screen onto the ground. As the combine moves forward, the screen catches a sample of whatever is coming out the back.
Weighing the grain captured on the screen and dividing the amount by 1.5 times the header width reveals the loss per square foot in the field. That number can then be used to calculate per-acre losses. By simply restoring electrical current to the magnet and putting the screen back in place, the system is ready for another cycle, so taking multiple samples throughout the day to monitor changing conditions is quick and easy.
“I mount an electromagnet under the combine and run a wire up to the cab that plugs into the cigarette lighter and the screen sticks to the magnet,” says Requier. “When you’re combining at the right speed you unplug the magnet and the screen falls down.”
The magnet and attachment bracket can remain mounted under the combine, but the catch screen is not meant to be left under the machine after sample taking is completed.
Requier is a product support specialist for a Case IH dealership and trains customers how to use new combines, so he has a lot of harvesting experience under his belt. He uses his invention to help combine buyers make their initial adjustments, but he also sells his ready-to-install systems for $450. “I build brackets for all makes (of combines),” he adds.
To take a proper loss sample, Requier says operators need to ensure kernels aren’t being spread by the chopper. “If you want a really good test, you drop your straw like you’re going to bale it,” he says. And taking several loss samples during the combine adjustment process is a good idea “You want to keep tweaking. You want to try different things (combine settings).”
When he first tried his catch screen system, Requier found he was able to easily and quickly test a variety of settings and improve the combine’s overall performance. “I had a 1460 Case,” he says. “I said let’s keep playing with the sieves and the fan. With the catch pan you’re dropping it at the right time (to get an accurate sample). By the end of the day I was going 20 per cent faster.”
Manually taking loss samples also lets farmers calibrate their in-cab loss monitors. Over the course of several years in the industry, Requier says he has found many famers don’t know how to properly interpret the information they get from loss monitors. Some use only the in-cab monitor to make initial combine adjustments, which is a major mistake.
“Combines have really good grain loss monitors,” he says. “But you have to calibrate it to your loss, not your loss to the monitor. I’ve talked to guys who say they go (entirely) by their monitor.”
To maximize a combine’s performance, Requier says he first keeps an eye on the engine load to determine when the combine is operating at capacity. “Case has a power monitor on newer models. On the old combines I go by engine speed. You want to load the engine and see how much you can push it.”
Once he has the combine working at full capacity, he uses the drop screen to get the settings right. That way his combine is putting through as much material as possible, but still keeping the loss rate down where it should be.
Requier says he can package and ship his catch screen systems to customers. For more information, contact him at 780-991-7919 or email [email protected] †