Combine Harvesters

Combining Harvesters – Revolutionizing Agriculture


Combine Harvesters are machinery used to efficiently harvest grain crops such as wheat, oats, barley, corn, soybeans and sunflowers. They efficiently perform three main harvesting operations – reaping, threshing and winnowing – in a single pass through the field to gather the grain and separate it from the stalks and chaff. This has revolutionized commercial grain farming operations around the world.

History and Development

The invention and continuous innovations of the Combine Harvester over the past century have transformed agriculture globally. Some of the key developments are:

– Early experiments in the 1830s led to the invention of the reaper which was pulled by horses and only cut and lifted the stalks. Separating the grain came later.

– In 1834, the McDonough reaper from Maryland was one of the first successful reapers to be commercially produced in the United States. It allowed farms to reap grain faster than doing it by hand.

– In 1874, Hiram Moore from California built the first machine that both cut and threshed grain in a single pass. However, it was bulky and required a team of horses to pull it.

– The Danver Harvester Company in Illinois introduced the Harvester Self-Rake Reaper in 1876 which automated the grain separation process. However, it was still pulled by horses.

– In the 1890s, steam-powered Combine Harvesters were developed but were heavy and inefficient. Gasoline engines later replaced steam which made combines more maneuverable.

– Cyrus McCormick’s company further refined the combine design and it became commercially successful after World War I as tractor technology advanced.

– Modern electronically controlled combines from manufacturers like John Deere, Case IH and New Holland can cut and thresh over 10 acres an hour with advanced grain handling and cleaning systems.

Advantages of Using Combine Harvesters

The key advantages of mechanized harvesting using combines include:

Efficiency and Speed
– Combines can cut, thresh and collect grain 5-10 times faster than manual methods. They can harvest 10-30 acres a day depending on crop conditions and model.

Labor Reduction
– Combines require far fewer workers than manual harvesting methods. This reduces labor costs significantly for commercial farms.

Crop Loss Reduction
– Manual harvesting methods led to 10-30% crop losses due to shelling, trampling or uneven reaping. Combines can collect over 95% of mature crops.

Grain Quality Improvement
– Combines cause less grain damage during threshing than older machines. Their cleaning systems also produce higher quality grains with fewer impurities.

Timeliness of Harvest
– Mechanical harvesting allows farm operations to harvest larger acreages in a shorter period before grains get over-ripe or weather-damaged. This improves harvest efficiency.

Components and Operating Systems

Modern combines have evolved into complex machines with multiple sophisticated systems. Some of the key components and systems include:

Header – This cutting platform at the front uses knives, sickles or swathers to cut plant stalks. Headers come in flexible widths from 10-40 feet.

Feeder House – It gathers the cut stalks and feeds them slowly and uniformly into the threshing and separation systems. Options include draper feeders or augers.

Threshing and Separating System – Combines use either a rotary threshing cylinder/concave system or a rub-impact system to detach grain from stalks using force and friction. Fan blowers then blow lighter materials like straw and chaff out the back.

Grain Handling and Cleaning Systems – These use grates, sieves, fans and destoning equipment to separate, clean and store separated grains. Modern systems can achieve above 95% separation accuracy.

Unloading Auger – It discharges cleaned grain either directly into a cart or grain truck or into an on-board grain tank. Larger grain tanks can hold 4,000-10,000 bushels.

Controls – Modern air-conditioned cabs have panoramic views, multifunction control panels, GPS-assisted steering and yield monitoring computers to optimize harvest efficiency. Fleet monitoring is also possible.

While innovating harvesting equipment has boosted yields, it has also led to the loss of some manual harvesting traditions. But overall, Combine Harvesters have truly revolutionized commercial grain production globally. Their continual improvements over the coming decades will remain crucial for increased world food security and sustainable intensification of agriculture.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it