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Analyzing In-Field Grain Handling Operations

Rapid advances in technology have contributed to the development of grain harvesting machines capable of extracting and storing grain at over 3,000 bu/h. High costs and timeliness issues demand that these combines operate in the field without stopping. In high-yielding crops, it can take as little as five to ten minutes for a combine to fill its grain tank, thus requiring a short turn-around time for the grain cart.

Relatively few studies have been carried out on multiple combine harvesting in terms of harvesting patterns and grain cart loading/unloading patterns. Such studies require the collection of data while the vehicles are traveling in the field with respect to position in the field and also when grain tanks are being loaded and unloaded. The objective of this work was to monitor two combines and one grain cart working in the same cornfield.

Data collected from monitoring position and loading/ unloading of combines, carts, and transport permitted analysis of vehicle usage and efficiency. Automating the flag triggering would provide a more reliable method of signaling the start and finish of loading/unloading processes.

Optimization of the combine harvesting pattern in corn fields can increase harvesting efficiency substantially. Preplanning of combine movement in the field and the use of vehicle position indicators via GPS will contribute to a major improvement in overall efficiency, especially when more than one combine is used. Controlled traffic in the field will also reduce soil compaction.

Evaluating the pattern and rules used to determine the location and direction of unloading the combines can also lead to major reductions in cart travel distance and time. Technologies are needed that permit more effective communication between vehicles and that incorporate some intelligence to guide the cart operator in making decisions in the field.

This research was supported by the NCSA Fellows Program, Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR), Deere & Company, Bloomingdale Farms, and Shafer Farms.

Al Hansen, Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural Engineering
(217) 333-2969; achansen@illinois.edu

Rob Hornbaker, Associate Professor
Department of Ag. & Consumer Economics
(217) 333-5508; hornbake@illinois.edu

Qin Zhang, Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural Engineering
(217) 333-9419; qinzhang@illinois.edu

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