AFTER receiving just 212 millimetres of rain for the growing season, deciding to invest in new machinery this year could have been a gamble for Owen cropper Lachlan Wood, but he believed limiting complications during harvest was a priority.
Mr Wood bought a brand new John Deere S770 header this season to help boost harvesting efficiency across 1600 hectares of crop.
With his previous header, Mr Wood had experienced issues with grain loss and uneven straw spreading at harvest.
"We upgrade headers after about 1200 hours or about every four years," he said.
"Harvest is the most important time and we want to use the latest technology and avoid breakdowns."
Mr Wood has also continued to invest in machinery for consistent grain quality across the farm so there were "no big surprises at the silos".
So far, the Harvest Smart technology feature that uses cameras, scales and operating efficiency data for precision harvesting had been the most helpful to achieve this, he said.
"I set the sample quality using my top priorities for grain quality and it uses cameras in the auger and bin to maintain it," he said.
Mr Wood especially wanted to monitor grain loss, foreign material and broken grain.
"The amount of grain that is either blown out the back of the header or into the straw that is spread across the paddock can increase and decrease, depending on the height of the crop," he said.
"The header will either slow down or speed up to make sure the desired amount of grain waste that was set is maintained consistently across each paddock."
Mr Wood said to calibrate grain waste, a section of crop is reapt and windrowed into a strip, then grains are counted and calculated into grains a square metre and then into kilograms a hectare.
"It will adjust to match the figure calculated," he said.
Mr Wood said "real time" grain sample cameras were "incredible" to help monitor the amount of chaff and straw being collected, as well locate cracked grain.
"If foreign material is getting too high, it will adjust to match what you pre-set," he said.
"It checks if it is thrashing correctly and if it begins to fill with too much straw or chaff, it will increase the fan speed to clean it more efficiently or shut the concave up slightly."
Mr Wood said a pressurised header front was another improved feature while reaping field peas.
"It pressurises and follows the contour of the crop. It direct heads and leaves a substantial amount of vine to lower foreign material collection and soil erosion," he said.
Mr Wood said grain bin scales also determined crop yield and header efficiency, while also calculating expected fuel usage across a paddock.
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STRAW PROVIDES MULTIPLE BENEFITS
THE benefit of straw cover for moisture retention and soil protection after harvest has outweighed bale returns for Owen cropper Lachlan Wood.
Mr Wood ceased marketing straw about 10 years ago because he had a long-term soil health plan.
"In the past, if the opportunity to make a return from straw was available then we would bale it, but if not, we did not," he said.
"Then we realised the increased benefit if straw remained in the paddock was more important long-term.
"So, all straw is spread out the back of the header at harvest."
Mr Wood said at sowing in a dry season, decreased straw cover on paddocks was noticed.
"Moisture retention underneath adequate straw would have been double than where it was a lot thinner," he said.
"The lighter country has really benefited from straw retention."
A new John Deere S770 header has also increased straw spreading efficiency and stubble retention for Mr Wood.
"We aim to leave a stubble height of about 20 centimetres to 25cm," he said.
"We are also able to reap crops up high so we have good stubble retention."
Mr Wood said the header's straw cutter had also improved straw spreading consistency.
"Its chopper system spreads straw evenly and spreads the full distance of the 12-metre front too," he said.
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