Matt Starling from Waldersley Farms, Southery, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was the winner of this year’s Combine Driver of the Year competition. He beat 45 other operators in a tightly fought test based on machine performance and machine settings in the 2013 harvest.

Impressive enough, but what’s even more striking is that the same farm won last year’s competition too, thanks to the skills of 2013 winner Warren O’Hare. Matt, like Warren, was operating a John Deere 9880 STS combine with 9m (30ft) header in standing-but-damp Sterling wheat. His spot rate was 62t/hr and losses came in at just 58kg/ha, a total loss of less than 1%.

The UK national average loss is more than 3.5% of the total crop.

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“Matt was driving the John Deere 9880 STS combine to its maximum capacity safely in the prevailing conditions,” says combine trainer and competition organiser Tony Gardiner from New Life Training in Diss, Norfolk.

“He delivered the best output with the lowest losses, with a tidy and regular stubble height and a good, clean, undamaged sample. Very little improvement was possible during my in-field visit.”
Tony Dardiner, New Life Training

“He delivered the best output with the lowest losses, with a tidy and regular stubble height and a good, clean, undamaged sample. Very little improvement was possible during my in-field visit.”

“I would be happy to employ him on contract work, knowing that the machine would be well prepared and looked after. In crops of varying ripeness and different field conditions he would do a good job,” he added.

“There would be no stripes of green across the fields nor green bales of straw, as he set his machine up to achieve the best of its potential throughout the day and every day of harvest.”

The 2013 competition covered 44 previously trained operators across the UK, using 15 different models of combine from six different manufacturers. There were 293 in-field checks in six different crops, with a large number of different harvesting and weather conditions, varieties, weeds, soils and management regimes.