New and improved models at the top and bottom end of the performance spectrum characterise the changes in this year’s Ultimate Guide to combines – along with the arrival of the first £1m machines.
While Case IH, Claas and New Holland have hit the £750,000 mark or thereabouts with their flagship models, the John Deere X9 1000 on tracks with a 12.2m HDX header and both wheeled and tracked versions of the X9 1100 with a 13.7m header carry a list price of more than a million pounds.
Not a price that growers will pay, of course, given the “discounts” available to get a deal price in the right ballpark, but a landmark nonetheless.
An addition to the Trion range introduced for this year’s harvest and upgrades across the board for Lexion combines form the Claas headlines for harvest 2023.
The Trion addition is among the 500 series five-walker machines, with the 540 having the same spec as the current 530 but sporting more power at 354hp versus 306hp for additional performance where muscle counts.
There are wheeled and Terra-Trac versions available with 9,000-litre or 10,000-litre grain tanks.
A wider cab – as first seen on the Trion combines – with more interior storage, an optional swivelling seat and various measures to improve visibility is introduced on all Lexion models.
In addition, Montana self-levelling machines return to the range to cater for growers on hilly ground wanting slope compensation beyond what the 3D dynamic top sieve and rotary cage “bomb door” control systems offer.
Just two models get the Montana treatment initially – the 408hp, five-walker Lexion 5500 and the 549hp, twin-rotor Lexion 7700.
Below the flagship Lexion 8900, a model reshuffle sees the Lexion 8600 in wheeled and Terra-Trac forms enter the line-up with 549hp from its MAN range.
The wheeled 585hp 8700 is dropped for the UK, but in Terra-Trac guise it receives a Mercedes-Benz engine upgrade to 625hp and a 15,000-litre grain tank option over the standard 13,500-litre unit
The 8800 Terra-Trac switches to a MAN engine with 700hp and becomes available with an 18,000-litre tank.
In addition to the already comprehensive selection of automation features available on the Trion and Lexion combines, Cemos Auto Header is a new option for the Vario cutting table.
It uses the cab roof-mounted laser scanner employed for Field Pilot guidance to identify changes in crop height and adjusts the reel height and position to maintain a consistent feed-on performance, while also adjusting the knife-to-auger distance if need be.
Three combine models carrying a new name – Corus – replace the two Fendt E-series five-walker entry-level machines.
An electronically controlled hydrostatic transmission is arguably the most significant upgrade as it is said to respond quickly to speed control inputs and in road travel mode automatically lowers engine revs to consume less fuel.
Increased power from an Agco engine lifts the base model from 176hp to 185hp and the second ‘E’ machine from 218hp to 225hp; a third variant then comes in with 260hp.
All three versions can now be had with Agco’s Power Flow table up to 6.2m wide with an extended knife position and conveyor belts carrying crop to the gathering auger, or the conventional Free Flow design up to 7.6m.
The combines also come with either straw walkers as the sole separation mechanism or with the Multi Crop Separator peg drum for more intensive separation and the same length walkers.
While the cab structure continues unchanged, interior updates have been made to the seat-mounted control console with the addition of in-cab controls for concave and sieve adjustments among the changes.
The top-end Ideal combines have also come in for attention, with a heavy-duty ground drive option for 8T, 9T and 10T machines on TrakDrive running gear to provide additional tractive effort for work in hilly fields and for road travel.
In addition, a 76cm traction belt and 800/70 R38 front tyre will be available with 520/85 R30 rear tyres for increased field surface contact area within an overall width of 3.5m.
In the field, Variotronic Turn Assistant extends GPS guidance to headland turns for reduced operator workload and fatigue in a cab that is now quieter, has storage compartments in the rear panel, has USB charging sockets and a second terminal holder on the armrest.
There are no changes to the model line-up in the John Deere range, but the HarvestLab 3000 constituent sensor for on-board grain and oilseed analysis is a new option.
This NIR device is increasingly used on John Deere forage harvesters, slurry tankers for manure nutrient analysis and in stationary applications, and now is available for the Grain Sensing feature.
It fits new S-series rotary and T-series straw walker combines and can be retrofitted to the clean grain elevator on current S-series and T-series combines from model year 2016 onwards.
The device measures moisture and the protein content of wheat, barley and rapeseed, the starch content of barley and the oil content of rapeseed continuously in real time.
And John Deere Operations Center software can be used to produce a “contour map” of these constituents for field management.
Deere says the system can also be helpful in segregating grain at harvest according to quality parameters.
Joystick steering is a new option for an unchanged line-up of top-end Massey Ferguson Ideal combines.
Available on all three TrakRide variants running on triangular track assemblies, the system does away with the steering column and wheel to open up a clear view to the header.
According to an Aalborg University trial in Denmark, operators completed a simulated drive quicker and with much less input using the left-hand joystick.
Field observations also noted that operators tend to sit back in the seat in a more comfortable, relaxed position in contrast to being hunched over a steering wheel.
In addition to steering, the joystick carries buttons to operate turn signals in road mode, and others sound the horn, switch between high and low beam road lights, and engage guidance in the field.
Among other changes in the cab, increased insulation has had a significant effect on noise level at full power, says Massey Ferguson.
There are also new storage compartments on the cab’s rear panel, plus additional mounts for an iPad, two USB charging ports and a smartphone holder with integral charger on the seat-mounted control console.
At the other end of the performance scale, the two entry-level Activa combines have been upgraded and joined by a third.
Power outputs are up at 185hp and 226hp for the direct replacements, while the incoming MF 7344 sports a 260hp Agco engine.
They power a new hydrostatic ground drive transmission that is now electronically controlled for improved responsiveness and “intelligent” functions, such as lowering engine revs for road travel.
The three machines are available with or without a peg drum rotary separation element, which is positioned between the threshing drum and beater, and the five straw walkers when installed.
The Multi Crop Separator’s grille can be rotated out of the crop flow to avoid damage when harvesting very dry, brittle crops.
All three combines can be equipped with the MF Free Flow header, but the Power Flow unit – which has an extended knife position and feed belts between the knife and auger – is an option.
Both headers are connected by a multi-coupling for the hydraulics and electrics.
In the cab, new controls and a revamped layout are evident, with the Agritronic display and grain loss monitor standard equipment, and with new options that include in-cab sieve adjustment.