World Record wheat harvest was battle in the mist

Last year was certainly a bumper one for combining records. First came New Holland who took the Guinness World Record for the highest tonnage of wheat (451.2t) harvested in an eight-hour period in Germany in July.

Then, in September, Claas set a new record of 532.1t in Lincolnshire with a Lexion 580.

And just when we all thought that was it for 2008, New Holland announced it had retaken the top spot by combining 551.6t in commercial conditions on 26 September in Northumberland.

This most recent record attempt took place on the farm of William Grimsdale of Mountfair Farming at Castle Heaton Estates. He and his son Jorin (who drove the combine) used a standard 2008 demonstration CR9090 with a new 10.7m header.

But while the Grimsdales were confident that they could harvest 600t in the eight-hour period, the long-term weather forecast was proving hopeless for planning a record attempt. “Every day we left it, the wheat quality was deteriorating,” says William.

The big day

On the day of the attempt, it was a damp early-morning start, with a sheen of moisture on the machinery and low-lying, lingering mist. The machines had been prepared the night before, with three tractors hitched up to 15t Rolland trailers. The combine had been checked and rechecked.

The mist finally showed signs of lifting at 12pm. “So we didn’t actually start cutting until 12.50pm – which was far from perfect as this meant finishing later on in the evening,” he explained.


William (third from left) and Jorin (second from right) Grimdale plus the record-breaking team who harvested 551.6t of wheat in eight hours.

To have any chance of taking the record, the combine and tractor-and-trailer drivers would be working at 100% for eight-hours continuously. It was a “tough ask” of the team after a long and challenging season, says William.

“The trailer drivers did a fantastic job – unloading from the combine at up to 10kph takes some doing. The only scare of the day for them was when one tractor and trailer got stuck in a wet hole. Fortunately one tractor always carries a chain so it was pulled out without any time lost.

“The conditions were damper than we’d hoped for to start with,” he says. “By 2pm we’d hit maximum output, with spot rates up around 100t/hour, and by 4.50pm (the half-way point) we had hit 312t – an average of 78t/hour.

“It was an awesome sight to watch the combine with a 35ft header travelling at 10kph across the field.

“Peak spot rate in Germany during the first attempt was 77t/hour, so we were well above that and on target for our 600t.” The combine was unloading its 8t load roughly every six minutes and the trailer drivers had to push up their own loads at the farm – so they were kept busy.

Moisture content was running at 17-18%, but rose to 20% in the evening. Loss rates were down to between 0.3 to 0.6% thanks to very ripe grain.

Throughout the run, the Guinness World Records adjudicator measured stubble heights, grain loss and grain quality and came on the combine to see how things were going.

At 7.30pm, the mist started to come down, and the wind stopped dead. “With no wind, the grain and straw started to get damp extremely quickly. Our other combine drivers were on the radios saying they would need to stop shortly.”

It all became very fraught, says Jorin. “When 7.30pm came, I was making more alterations to the settings to keep output as high as possible to try and reach our 600t target.”

At 8pm the CR9090 reached the existing World Record of 532.1t with 50 minutes to go. From that point on, conditions just got worse and worse, meaning that the 600t target had slipped away. They pushed on regardless and at 8.50pm hit 551.6t.

“On a normal night, without the mist, we would have done 600t without bother,” says Jorin. “The last hour and a half was torture as the performance dropped with the worsening conditions. By 8.50pm the mist was so thick that the machines were really wet.

“Our mood changed from great relief at having finished the day to celebration when the Guinness World Record adjudicator confirmed we were the world record holders. There was an amazing feeling of camaraderie and satisfaction throughout the team,” says William.

“We had missed our target of 600t, but had still broken the World Record. Considering the very wet, traumatic and late harvest it was truly remarkable.”

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