TRY heading a five tonne barley crop at 1am, cutting at below beer can height and travelling at 7.5 kilometres and hour – and engine load has just hit 100 per cent.
Neridup (north east Esperance) farmer John Wallace, Bakaara Farming, achieved that and came away smiling.
Tucking his new CLAAS Lexion 770 header into the shed after another challenging harvest, he gave the thumbs-up when asked about the performance of the machine.
“I was very impressed,” he said.
“We weren’t far off our expectations.”
Mr Wallace bought the Lexion from CLAAS Harvest Centre, Esperance, equipped with a (six cylinder 15.6 litre) Mercedes engine developing 436 kilowatts (585 horsepower), a 13,500 litre grain tank and “shoed” with Terra Tracs and a 12.3 metre front.
“We found it was a perfect fit for the variable conditions, for which it was designed,” he said.
“That’s why we bought it.”
When he spoke with this writer last year, Mr Wallace expected the Lexion would enable him to finish his harvest faster and use significantly less fuel.
Both targets were achieved.
“We knocked about 14 days off the time we usually take to do the program (2577 hectares) and we were saving about 10 litres of fuel a hectare compared with the model we traded,” he said.
“So a rough figure would be about $25,000 savings in fuel and that’s also pulling a chaff cart.
The CLAAS Telematics mobile APP and CEBIS cab display figures revealed an average working fuel consumption of 72 litres an hour in barley and 71L/hr in canola.
Wheat average fuel use was 74L/hr.
The fuel consumption included turning time, auger unload time, transport time, idle time and pulling the 30 cubic metre Tecfarm chaff cart.
“I was chopping and spreading an enormous amount of straw as well,” Mr Wallace said.
“I said I’d be happy if we averaged 35 tonnes a hectare and we got 36t/ha.
“I reckon next year we could push that to 40t/ha because I know I can get the best out the machine after our first go.
“We started at 8:30am and generally finished between 9:00pm and 10:00pm, with a few nights pushing well in to the earlier hours of the morning.
“So there’s plenty of confidence in planning two shifts a day.
“We could have harvested at 16 per cent moisture day- in, day-out but you’ve just got to analyse the cost of doing that (grain drying costs $20 per tonne includes re-handling and gas usage).
“It excelled in all conditions and from 5pm onwards it sails away from other rotary combines I’ve driven.
“Even at 1am you’re just getting to 100pc engine load.”
The five tonne barley crop was windrowed and Mr Wallace said he was picking it up at “below beer can height” travelling at an average 8.6km/hr and burning 76L of fuel an hour.
“It certainly achieved my expectations and we had no blocks, even though we were picking up at 16pc for blending,” he said.
“I would say we would have been going 3-6km/hr faster compared with other headers.”
The real eye-opener for Mr Wallace was direct heading Roundup Ready canola.
“It was sensational in the canola,” he said.
“We had a wet block that went 600kg/ha and we averaged 1.3t/ha over the rest but it shone in all conditions.
“I’m putting 1800ha of canola in this year and I might even harvest it while it has green in it because I’ve got the knives for it and it’ll easily handle the material.”
In his four tonne wheat crop, Mr Wallace said they were processing “an enormous amount of straw”.
“We didn’t have any problems with the sieves and rotor losses as we could adjust the machine when required to minimise our losses,’’ he said.
“We checked these accurately, measuring about 0.5pc, which are losses I am happy to accept.”
Mr Wallace also was impressed with the performance of the dual blade choppers and turbo Power Spread.
“At night, barley residue can bunch up and it’s difficult to seed through but with the even spread you get from this header I don’t expect to have any problems at seeding,” he said.
“Plus we’ll get faster breakdown of the residue and I can put the stock in, which is something I couldn’t do with 5-6t/ha stubble residues.”
He said the choppers worked well at night handling material at 16-17pc moisture.
“Everything was completely chopped so you didn’t get that mat behind the header,” Mr Wallace said.
“And being less than 20km from the coast, this header can handle moist crops better.
“It’s got two long rotors (4.2 metres), an impressive turbine jet fan system and a whopping sieve area.
“The APS threshing system will also hold up capacity in cold, hard harvesting conditions.
“The sea breeze brings in humidity which makes the straw tougher and ropey and harder to process but the threshing system on this header will handle that.”
Other features Mr Wallace likes are the ride, “particularly over ameliorated soil” and the quiet cab.
“It’s also a very balanced machine and we were operating between 1600 and 1800rpm, which is also where you’re getting your maximum torque,” he said.
“Overall we’re very happy and the servicing and attention we got from the local dealer was sensational.”
With so much going on, hydraulically, heating can become an issue, particularly affecting capacity.
But Lexion engineers have it covered with a Dynamic cooling system which Mr Wallace describes as “second to none”.
Dynamic cooling incorporates a variable fan drive that automatically adjusts the cooling capacity as required by the engine, which CLAAS says helps save up to 15kW (20hp).
Located horizontally behind the engine, the radiator draws in clean air from above the combine through a 1.6m wide rotating sieve filter.
The air is then directed downwards through the radiator and engine bay, before exiting through louvres that direct the air down the side of the header, creating a curtain of air that prevents dust rising.
As a result, the engine bay is kept far cleaner, which in turn, means less maintenance.
The other good feature is the CLAAS Cemos Automatic System, which continuously adjusts features such as grain separation and cleaning.
This feature is designed to have the machine always operating at maximum capacity and efficiency while still keeping grain quality at its best.
Components controlled by the automatic system include rotor and fan speed along with the sieves, which assists with the cleaning process.
These functions are shown on the system terminal so operators can keep a track of what adjustments are being made.
The rationale is to maximise throughput, minimise fuel consumption, maintain high grain quality and optimise balance of the machine.
The company also has introduced the ‘Cmotion’ control switch, which handles much of the operation of the header.
The system is designed to be as intuitive as possible with data accessed anywhere via the internet and information such as yield mapping, viewed graphically for easier dissemination.
According to the company’s product manager (LEXION) Jono Ham, CLAAS Harvest Centre estimates that the cost of purchasing the new wide-bodied LEXION 770, equipped with Terra Trac and a 12.3m Convio draper front, as starting from $14/t.
The estimate assumes a total throughput of 30,000t over three years, exclusive of operating and maintenance costs.
“Even then, we can confidently say that LEXION comes out way in front in terms of fuel efficiency when measured in litres per tonne of grain harvested, while our maintenance costs are comparable with other makes on a percentage basis,” Mr Ham said.
“Even our largest machines are consistently recording an average fuel consumption of between 2 to 2.5 litres to a tonne of grain harvested.”
More information: Contact your local CLAAS Harvest Centre dealer.