The Australian grains sector is on course to what is forecast to be another golden harvest for many key production zones as grain begins filling chaser bins across the country.
Favourable growing conditions, and many months of hard work, have meant the latest Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences Australian Crop Report forecasts winter crop production will hit 54.8 million tonnes in 2021-22 - a considerable 32 per cent above the 10-year average.
Handling a crop of this volume in a year when access to seasonal labour to support local contractors and farmers will be limited due to border closures, and the freight network may be under pressure, means thoroughly preparing equipment and embracing technology has never been more important.
If I had one key message to share with growers, it would be to make their harvester part of the team and use it to its fullest potential, by taking advantage of the technology available.
Now is the time for growers to ensure latest software is installed, so it is not only ready to collect valuable harvest data, but is optimised to assist contractors and less experienced workers achieve the greatest efficiency possible.
Yield data is the ultimate measure of a crop's performance and there is only one shot to collect it.
This means it's critical to ensure equipment sensors are calibrated and the digital setup has been completed before going to the field.
If using John Deere equipment, growers should have all field boundaries and guidance lines set up in Operations Center and the harvester display.
Not only will this reduce the need for operator input, it will also improve data collection accuracy during the season.
For farmers using contractors, connecting your Operations Center account with the contractor's account will mean data can be transferred more easily during the time-critical harvest window, while making sure there are no gaps in intelligence, particularly when using this to inform decisions for next season.
The predicted bumper harvest ahead means there will be little room for downtime.
In preparation, John Deere dealers have been working hard to be ready for the season and have been building stock levels in their branches to help make sure the right parts are available at the right locations.
Growers have also been encouraged to pre-purchase high-wear consumables such as lubricants, belts, and knives, to have on-farm when time is of the essence.
At John Deere, we have already started increasing the in-flow of parts to our Australia and New Zealand Distribution Centre by doubling our weekly airfreight capacity and chartering dedicated flights.
The ANZDC provides more than 133,000 stocked lines to support over 340 current models of John Deere machinery in the field, as well as products from earlier John Deere generations.
Like our farmers, the ANZDC operates 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, to ensure parts are delivered to customers as efficiently as possible.
Bumper crops will mean more people in the field, many harvesting for the first time, and rushing to maximise productivity.
It is important that safety remain front of mind for workers, and managers should be using this time to induct their teams and educate them on how to safely operate equipment.
In combination with other routine maintenance, regular harvester cleaning is important to cut the likelihood of downtime, while maximising machine performance.
Adjusting cleaning schedules to harvest conditions will support optimal machine function and create safer operating conditions for staff.
The Operator's Manual, an important guide to refer to throughout the season, details how type of crop, crop moisture content and harvest conditions can all impact where and how crop material and debris can accumulate in a machine.
As always, it is also critical to be certain fire extinguishers are meeting compliance and are in place.
As we embark on what is already proving to be another exceptionally strong season, I wish all growers a safe and productive harvest.
Ben Kelly is the production systems manager for John Deere Australia New Zealand.
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