A Farm Equipment Special Report: What Will Agriculture Look Like in 2021?

Harvest is payday for producers and with yields steadily rising, the need to get the crop out of the field as fast as possible will continue to rise, too.

"Headers will continue to get bigger and we'll see even more automatic control of header height, row sense devices and autosteer so the operator can spend more time monitoring harvest operations," says Marion Calmer, owner of Calmer Corn Heads.

With larger headers, Gerald Salzman, senior director of Case IH Global Product Marketing Management-Harvesting, says we will see more demand for folding heads for transportation.

"We need to consider the constraints on transportation of farm equipment that they have in Europe," Salzman says. "We could face those challenges, too, so getting wider may take on some non-traditional designs from what we have experienced in the past."

Speed may have to come from other sources, such as track technology. More tracks on combines will keep field conditions from slowing harvest.

"As farms grow and yields get higher we'll need to be harvesting every day from September 1 to November 1, even when it's muddy. That means there will be more tracks on grain carts and combines," Calmer says.

Tracks provide flotation and traction in soggy fields and reduce compaction. They also help with flotation as combine headers and larger grain tanks start to weigh down harvesters, says Calmer.

Headers of the future will be able to chop stalks without increasing horsepower requirements.

"The advantage will have to come from sharper stalk rolls, like the new heat-treated ones. We can't continue with the trend of chopping heads with lawnmower blades because they're too heavy and require too much horsepower and maintenance," Calmer says.

Grain Handling

Efficient harvest means never slowing down, which is exactly what always seems to happen when the grain cart pulls alongside the combine. In the future, if the grain cart isn't entirely autonomous it will, at least, be controlled by the combine operator, Salzman says.

"This year, at the SIMA farm show in Paris, Case IH received an innovation award for an initiative on vehicle-to-vehicle communication between the grain cart tractor and combine. It's technology that should come full circle in 10 years or less," Salzman says.

When the grain cart and tractor with auto-steer approach the combine for unloading, the combine automatically takes over operation of the grain cart tractor. It positions the grain cart for unloading making it a "slave" vehicle to the combine. When the combine operator speeds up, the cart speeds up. When the combine turns, the grain cart turns.

"We're able to position two vehicles next to each other safely and efficiently," Salzman says. "Unloading on the go becomes more efficient because there's no slowdown and it takes the control out of the hands of seasonal or out-of-practice drivers."

But as corn yields surpass 300 bushels and headers grow wider, grain carts may become obsolete.

"The grain cart can't be constantly following the combine," Salzman says. "In the future we may see a bagging system where the combine drops a sealed bag in the field that can be picked up later. The solution will need to consider labor, timeliness of harvest, logistics and soil compaction."

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