1 August 1997

Using US-spec CTS was a gamble that paid off

Following John Deeres tentative introduction of a few rotary CTS combines last harvest, Geoff Ashcroft tracked one down in Northants to see how it is performing

"THE principle of John Deeres CTS combine is right, but we still have a few bugs to work out of a machine which was designed for use in North American crops," explains David Townsend, farm manager of Courteenhall Farms, Northants.

With 760ha (1877 acres) of wheat, rape, beans and barley to cut, Mr Townsend admits hes taken a gamble with a US-spec machine, but so far, it is one which appears to have paid off.

"Had I not been guaranteed another combine if this one wasnt any good, then I would not have bothered, but the support Ive had through my local dealer and John Deere is tremendous," he says. "It worked well last year and just needs fine tuning."

Hive of activity

Throughout most of the winter months, Courteenhall Farms has been a hive of activity with transatlantic travellers from Deeres Moline, US factory giving Mr Townsends CTS the European touch.

"First to get the treatment was the straw chopper. It was previously an after-thought and took three men to lift the unit into place when we wanted to chop straw. Now all I have to do is pull a lever and engage a dog-clutch," he says.

Other alterations included minor modifications to the threshing rotors to ease crop flow and fit a better set of crop dividers on the 925 header.

"Its been a learning curve and if something doesnt work too well, we get on the phone and ask for some different parts."

Clearly excited to be involved with the UK development phase for the CTS, Mr Townsend enthuses over his workshop fabricated header skids which reflect signals for the ultrasonic header float system. He reckons the sensors were trying to read directly off the ground and with laid stubbles and ruts adding to the confusion, it was a system which he felt could be easily improved upon.

"The header is just too heavy," he explains. "By the time it responds to a bump in the ground, the bump simply isnt there anymore – it just pushes right through and can put soil onto the header table. The combine would benefit from Deeres Hillmaster system which levels the combine to the header."

Not long into some damp, laid barley when FW paid a visit last week, Mr Townsend reckons this seasons harvest will be more of a trial than last. In laid Muscat barley, output is nowhere near the 30t/hour achieved last year – although hes still convinced trading in two John Deere 1188s for the CTS machine was a good move.

"In standing crops, the CTS will easily outperform the combined output of the two 1188s, although its proving a bit of a handful with the heavy 25ft header," he explains.

"Last season, we could combine at about 8-9kph and send 35t/hour back to the store even if we had to leave long stubbles to prevent working the engine too hard."

Horsepower handicap

And it is lack of horsepower which remains Mr Townsends main concern. Even without the straw chopper running, he reckons the engine spends most of its time on full load. And damp, laid barley which harboured a few lumps, could occasionally bring the 260hp combine to its knees.

However, CTS does pack a power boost of about 20hp. Though it only comes into play when the unloading auger is being used and helps to maintain output while unloading on the move.

"I have been tempted to unload continuously while combining to see if I could gain more output, but it just sends the temperature gauge towards the red," he says.

Mr Townsend is looking forward to getting into his 238ha (588 acres) of oilseed rape, where he can also try out a new John Deere 914 draper header – an attachment specifically designed for the CTS combine and one hes had imported after seeing it at a farm machinery show while visiting the States.

"Weve really got too much rape for one combine, but by using the right header and feeding the rape in properly, Im hopeful it will make harvest a little quicker than trying to pick up two laid swaths with the standard combine header. Only time will tell."n

Farm manager David Townsend: "I would have another CTS – but not until the final UK-spec machine is available."

John Deeres CTS combine is put through its paces at Courteenhall Farms, Northants. Output is better than two 1188s it replaced.