5 September 1997

Yield monitor first for Case

By Mike Williams

CASE IH has moved into precision farming with a new range of yield monitoring and yield mapping equipment for the Axial Flow range of combine harvesters.

And further equipment to fit current Maxxum and Magnum tractors is on the way.

The equipment, known as the Advanced Farming Systems or AFS, will be available this autumn after a two-year test on farms in the UK and other European countries.

In America, where the technology was developed, AFS has been working commercially for two years.

Case IH is already claiming a commanding sales lead with more than 4000 units in use on Axial Flows worldwide, well ahead of other systems including the longer-established Massey Ferguson equipment. Like most of its rivals, AFS uses signals from the GPS network of space satellites. But Case IH says it is the first to use a signal correction from a separate satellite stationed over Europe. This is claimed to upgrade positioning accuracy from about 100m for the raw GPS data to just 1m using the correction.

AFS starts with sensors to measure the moisture content and the mass of the clean grain flowing into the tank. This data is displayed on a screen in the cab, and the figures are converted to yield per hectare by programming in the header width.

Operators can also enter the target moisture content after the grain is dried, allowing the computer to convert the actual yield figure to the weight of dried grain available for sale.

Adding a GPS receiver allows the systems to be upgraded for yield mapping, and all the data can be unloaded on a smart card for transfer to the office computer.

Warwickshire farmer Stuart Russell is already yield mapping with his Axial Flow 2188 combine. He is one the farmers chosen to test AFS equipment, and after harvesting 400 acres of wheat and 90 acres of winter rape on his Tofts Farm, Dunchurch, Rugby, he says the maps are already highlighting ways he can improve efficiency.

"In one field of wheat it shows almost to the furrow width an area where I economised on ear wash spray. This reduced the yield, and the map clearly shows that for this year at least the extra spray was a good investment," he says.

"Another of the maps is showing yield variations caused by rotational differences. The wheat yielded significantly more after beans than after set-aside. You could not see the difference in the crop, but it shows as a straight line on the map, and this could be useful in planning where to have any set-aside in future."

Mr Russell is using the yield map data in conjunction with a soil analysis programme which will be completed over a four-year period, and he is interested in using the yield and soil maps to control fertiliser application rates.

Crop spraying

This could be the next AFS development, and Case IH is also looking at the possibility of bringing crop spraying into the AFS system – possibly in a link with its newly-acquired Gem sprayer subsidiary.

All Axial Flow combines in the 2100 series introduced two years ago are already wired for AFS equipment, making retro-fitting easy. All current series Maxxum Pro and Magnum tractors are also wired for AFS ready for a GPS link for fertiliser spreader control and other applications.

Price details have not been finalised, but new Axial Flow combines bought before the end of the year can have the yield monitor fitted free of charge, with yield mapping available as an extra cost option. &#42

Stuart Russell, one of the UKs first users of the Case Advanced Farming System (AFS). The maps are already highlighting ways efficiency can be improved, he says.

Above: Case Axial Flow combines are to be equipped with yield monitoiring and mapping equipment. Inset: In-cab control system.