Accurate combine calibration is not just a once-in-a-harvest task.
Why it matters: Combine sensor calibration ensures quality data is created for making crop management decisions based on yield maps.
“If the sensors are not calibrated properly on the machine, and even re-calibrated throughout the season, that data that you are collecting is pretty much useless if it’s not accurate,” says Cory Weber, sales representative for Premier Equipment, Elmira location.
He recommends calibration at the beginning of harvest, every time the header is changed and in the field at regularly intervals to assure quality data.
“As you change from one header to another you have to re-calibrate that system so it relearns what sensors are on it, but also the vibration of the machine actually changes when you go from one header to the other and that can impact the yield map slightly,” says Weber.
Calibrating the combine is a simple task that doesn’t take more than an hour each time. Some systems are even done as quickly as 15 minutes, yet farmers are still not doing it as often as they should.
“I think the biggest struggle is the mindset shift; you have to be more involved, more pro-active in crop change. With more sensors and more automation on the machine there’s more where you have to go into the display and do that, and I know some (farmers) find that a little daunting. They don’t want to play with it, they just want to drive,” says Weber.
Today, combines have systems that can actively calibrate as they harvest the field.
On some models, the combine will automatically weigh content once a certain number of pounds is reached.
“Older combines you were supposed to do this manually, but now with combines we can get this from the factory, or add it to their S-series.”
Header calibration, mass flow sensor, mass flow vibration, moisture, and grain loss are the five key calibrations that should be done and all together would take about an hour to calibrate, says Weber.
“If you don’t have ‘active yield,’ multi-point calibration is suggested — you go to the field, you weigh off a load and then you tell the display ‘this one load in the grain tank weighed X number of pounds.”
It’s important to complete this calibration numerous times throughout the field to ensure the most accurate data.
“Different areas, different amounts, different conditions — the more calibrations you do, the more in every field, the more data points that you give it for the yield calibration, the more accurate, the more above and beyond the yield measurement is.”
Weber says weight calibration is the most important and the one that most commonly doesn’t get done, estimating that more than 90 per cent of operators don’t complete it.
Weber suggests inputting weight data on a minimum of four loads per field for ultimate variation and ensuring correct data inputs across the whole field.
This may not be realistic for most growers so adding scales on to a grain cart is a good alternative.
“You’re not losing time by going to a grain cart and emptying it out. If you’re using a grain cart while unloading on the go the operator can tell you ‘that load weighed X amount.’”
Some farmers connect an iPad in the grain buggy tractor to the cart scale head. The device will then connect to the combine cab and the driver will see the load.
“(The operator) doesn’t even have to talk to the grain cart operator if he doesn’t want to; he can see everything that’s happening (with a wireless monitor) and once he knows what it is, he can punch it in right away — that’s probably the closest to an automated system as you are going to get.”
When looking at your combine data the more years of collected data you have, the better information and decisions you can make.
“At least three (years), some people say five, minimum three. The more years you have the better decisions, and again, they have to be calibrated. If they’re not calibrated, no matter how many (years) you have, (the data) is still pointless.”