AGCO’s Gleaner combines were the topic of conversation on the U. S. farm television program “RFD-TV Live” in early spring. The show aired on satellite and cable networks across that country, but it was not seen in Canada.
Gleaner’s combine product marketing manager, Kevin Bien, appeared as a guest to discuss one of the company’s longest-running designs, the transverse rotor combine. And he dropped some not-so-subtle hints that not only will they continue to see production, but there are also significant capacity changes in store for them. New-generation machines will soon replace the current R66 and R76 models, and a new larger combine will be introduced.
With the introduction of the Gleaner A Series axial rotor combines (those with a threshing rotor running front to rear) for the 2007 season, there was some speculation that the R Series line might be dropped. The R Series unique design uses a sideways-mounted (transverse) rotor. Apparently, though, AGCO has found there is still a strong following for them. They’re also one of the last vestiges of the now extinct Allis-Chalmers brand.
“AGCO is committed to the R Series technology, and they (farmers) are going to see that in the very near future,” said Bien. “We’ve been listening to customers and the thing we’ve been doing is “super-sizing” the combine during the last few model years. We’ve been taking the solid attributes of the R Series combine and starting to increase capacity. Now we’re getting prepared, obviously, for something much bigger in the future.”
Bien went on to hint the company has prototypes of a larger-capacity R Series combine out in fields in the final stages of field trials. And AGCO will eventually offer previews of those machines on a special website set up for just that purpose.
“That website is www.gleanersuper7.com,”said Bien. “If they choose to go there and take a look during the harvest, they may see a glimpse of things to come.”
But if you can’t wait for official company images of the larger model, there are pictures of a working prototype on the combine-enthusiast website www.combine-forums.proboards.com.At least that is what they are reported to be. As is usually the case with prototype sightings, there are no markings visible; but the combine is a lot bulkier than the current production model beside it in one of the shots, suggesting it has been “super-sized.”
In April, AGCO’s senior vice-president and general manager for North America, Robert Crain, spoke in an exclusive interview with Grainews and commented on the new combine. “It’s no longer a rumour; we will be introducing a larger transverse combine,” he said. He added that farmers can expect to see official news releases and pictures sometime in August or September.
360 DEGREES OF THRESHING
So why continue with the wide-bodied R Series when the new high-capacity A Series axial designs are already on dealers’ lots? “When you have a solid
The R Series Gleaner combines continue to use the unique transverse rotor concept that was introduced in 1979. The company confirms new, higher-capacity models will soon be unveiled, appealing to broad-acre farmers.
foundation, a solid design… you don’t change those things,” said Bien. And even though the combine’s overall design is decades old, it has seen a lot of updates through the years.
“Listening to our customers and looking at ways we can increase capacity in all areas of the machine, we’ve been busy. In the last three years, 30 changes have been made to this combine,” added Bien. One of those improvements was to increase the average hopper unloading rate to 4.0 bushels per second, making it the fastest in the business.
Prior to these recent modifications, the transverse combines underwent significant design changes in 2003, when they were redesignated the R5s.
Over the years, the transverse Gleaner won a reputation for putting a very clean sample of grain in the bin while gulping down a pretty thick swath at the same time. According to Bien, the reason it has such a healthy appetite is the rotor can thresh through 360 degrees of rotation, in contrast to most axial designs.
“Our rotary processor has a cage that is perforated 360 degrees entirely around that rotor. We’re able to thresh around the entire circumference, which is something no other combine can do. If you look at axial combines today, they either have a 160-degree wrap or a 180-degree wrap,” explained Bien.
Aside from that, the R Series combines carry many of the attributes that made the original transverse model, the N6, popular with producers when it was first introduced in 1979. One of which is they’re light on their feet, weighing in at several thousand pounds less than many competitors. “Our machine weighs roughly 30,000 pounds, that’s roughly, in some cases, three to 3- tons lighter (than competing models),” says Bien.
And engineers have kept the brand’s reputation for easy service. “We can service almost all of our drives right from the ground. We can even get our rotor out in 30 minutes.”
IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME?
Even though AGCO engineers may have been listening to what producers have been asking for in a combine, there are only class VI and VII models in the current R Series stable. These machines have lagged behind when it comes to the demand for ever-larger combines to keep up with growing farm sizes in many regions.
So, will the company be able to lure large-scale producers back to the transverse rotor concept when capacity grows? Bien thinks so. “It’s the most differentiated machine out there on the market today. It allows us to do some things other combines cannot do.”
As an added benefit, updating the transverse combine concept may help appease Allis-Chalmers enthusiasts who saw discontinuing the orange AGCO-branded tractors as the end of an era. Many drew a direct lineage between them and the orange A-C models that ceased to exist in 1985. Rejuvenating the transverse combines may soften that blow and keep those dyed-in-the-wool A-C people coming through AGCO dealership doors.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews.