27 September 1996

Needs improvement but CTS combines basically good

Despite John Deeres claim that its new rotary CTS combine was not in the UK this year, Andy Collings managed to track down at least one satisfied farmer using such a machine, in south Northants

"JOHN Deeres CTS combine is basically a good machine," says Bill Lee. "There are still a few improvements which need to be made to bring it up to full UK specification, but we have been pleased with its performance this harvest."

Farming in partnership with his brother, John, near Towcester, Northants, the Lees have 570ha (1400 acres) of wheat and barley to cut. The decision to take on what is still an unproven machine in UK conditions for such a large area, was clearly one not to be taken lightly.

"We were offered it by our local dealer," explains Mr Lee. "He gave us a virtual guarantee that if it failed to perform he would replace it with another type. I have to say we were a little cautious."

The CTS combine is conventional in its use of a drum and concave, but instead of straw walkers the machine employs two rotary separators running longitudinally. Straw leaving the concave is split into two streams and fed through the separators before exiting at the rear of the machine.

"We bale all of our straw and it was good to see it remained in reasonable condition after passing through the separators. This, I believe, is due to the rotors turning in the bottom of an oval housing – an arrangement which allows space for the straw to move freely at the top of the housing," explains Mr Lee.

One of the initial problems encountered, however, was that the straw dropped directly on to the chaff spreaders, which meant it could not be left in a swath if the spreaders were in use. This required a plate to be fitted to deflect the straw over the chaff spreaders.

A straw chopper fitted to the machine has not yet been tried but Mr Lee raises some concern about whether the 260hp, six-cylinder engine would have the spare power to operate it effectively.

In terms of output, though, the CTS appears to have performed well. In standing wheat, the Lees reckoned to deliver more than 40t/hour to their grain store.

"One of the limiting factors with our previous combines has been the ability of the returns elevator to cope. The CTS has only one elevator and we have not been troubled at all."

An interesting detail discovered during harvest was just how slow the drum could be operated at without any reduction in threshing efficiency. Mr Lee started the day with the drum set at about 700rpm but as the day warmed up he found it could be reduced to nearer 500rpm.

From the start of the season it was clear that a longer tank emptying auger was required – the unloading trailers were being forced to run on top of the previous swath rather than straddling it. A longer version was brought over from the States and fitted.

Improvements are also due to be made to the tank itself, which currently has a rather restricting capacity of just 5.5t.

On the winter agenda, too, is to make some adjustments to the 25ft header. An American build, it is destined to receive the European touch, which, with the incorporation of a crop restraining "bump" running the length of the cutter table, will allow it to cope better with laid crops. &#42

The John Deere CTS completes its first season. Note the deflector plate to prevent the straw landing on the chaff spreaders when they are working.