THE first Class 11 combine harvester to arrive in Western Australia, a John Deere X9 1100, one of the biggest combines in the world, is being readied for a demonstration tour.
AFGRI Equipment Australia technicians at the group's South Guildford headquarters were last week preparing the top of the range X9 1100 Signature Edition - one of only three X9s in the country - before it goes out to demonstrate its ability to harvest 100 tonnes and more in an hour, depending on crop conditions.
Sight unseen as yet by WA graingrowers, the X9 1100 and its Class 10 X9 1000 sibling - released in the United States, Canada and Europe in time for last season's harvest - have already generated unprecedented interest, particularly from some of the larger-scale broadacre farmers in the State.
A bit like Dr Who's Tardis, the X9 series combines are much bigger on the inside but little bigger on the outside, so they can handle tight headland turns and are easy to transport.
They also use up to 20 per cent less fuel per tonne harvested than the previous biggest John Deere combine offered by AFGRI, the S790.
"More area covered in the same time as previously but using less fuel and with more grain loss prevention features - it's all about efficiency and getting the grain in the grain tank," said AFGRI technical advisor Riaan Ferreira, the man in charge of preparing the X9 1100 for its demonstration tour.
"One of the main concept changes is the dual separator design, with two side-by-side 24-inch (60.9 centimetres) rotors for better capacity," Mr Ferreira said.
Twin rotors are claimed to increase threshing area by 45 per cent and increase separating area by 80pc for improved performance in high-volume crops with less grain loss, he said.
A further change for greater efficiency from increased capacity, he pointed out, was replacing the S700 series' conveying augers with a front step pan followed by an adjustable pre-chaffer and a cleaning shoe of seven square metres.
Ribs on the cleaning shoe ensure the crop mat is evenly distributed and four fans with 85pc more airflow ensure clean air is evenly supplied across the shoe.
Another major difference between the X9 and predecessors, is the return system is on the left side of the machine now and the clean grain system is on the right side to improve accessibility to components, Mr Ferreira said.
He said this typified John Deere's approach to the design of the X9.
Apart from aiming for optimum harvesting performance, improved efficiency in operation and maintenance was also a design brief.
"If you take the main drive to the feeder house - because that's the longest distance of drive - there used to be seven components in the S700 series and that is now down to four components on the X9," Mr Ferreira said.
"It's much faster for the farmer to do daily maintenance.
"With the feed accelerator we used to have to stop the combine, climb down and walk around to make belt adjustments on the S700 series.
"On the X9 it can now be done on the platform just outside the cab where there are gear levers where different speeds can be selected.
"The same for the rotors, where the rotor gearbox speed was selected at the back of the combine just in front of the left rear wheel, it is now also a gear lever on the platform."
Mr Ferreira said similar thought had gone into a sequential start-up and shutdown for the grain tank cross augers and unload auger - another first for John Deere on the X9.
"Once you fold the unload auger out and press the unload button, the unload auger will start to turn, then three seconds later the grain tank cross augers will start conveying the grain to the unload auger," he said.
"When you shut the system off the opposite happens, the grain tank cross augers will stop and three seconds later the unload auger will stop.
"That gives sufficient time to empty out the unload auger - there's a lot of weight in that unload auger if it is left full of grain.
"A further benefit of having the flexible spout (an option standard on the Signature edition) on the end of the auger is the operator has full control of where they want it to start and stop.
"When you finish unloading the grain and you put the auger back in the cradle behind the combine, the spout will automatically go back to the set position to stop any grain dribbling out."
He pointed out unloading with the longest of the 7.9m, 8.7m or 9.4m optional auger lengths, could be done "from tramline to tramline" if suitable chaser bins are used.
The X9 1000 has a 14,800-litre power-folding grain tank, while the X9 1100 can hold up to 16,210 litres, 5pc and 15pc more than the S790 respectively.
The X9 1100 can unload in about a minute and a half with an auger capacity of 187 litres per second,
"That's almost a 44-gallon drum a second," Mr Ferreira pointed out.
The X9 1100 AFGRI will demonstrate in WA this harvest is fitted with John Deere's new 15.2 metre (50 foot) hinged draper front for better ground following and a cleaner cut.
The header front is fitted with wider 'Grainsaver' belts that have a raised pattern on them to stop small grains and particularly canola rolling off the front.
The belts feed a significantly increased infeed area, now with a 1.72m channel width.
"Another new feature is the top cross auger on the header front - you can get options of a standard cross auger or a fingered cross auger which has retractable fingers similar to the centre drum," Mr Ferreira said.
"In bushy canola and hybrid canola, which can be very fluffy and bushy at times, you have those fingers to press the crop flat to get a smoother transition into the entry section and into the machine."
Powering the X9 is a new 13.6 litre engine producing up to 515 kilowatts (690 horsepower) with a new common-rail fuel injection system and hydraulic valve lifters to make the engine smoother, quieter and more fuel efficient.
The engine cooling fan automatically reverses direction for a short time every 15 minutes - or at the operator's control - to blow dust out of the cooling package.
The drive system is the new ProDrive XL transmission with two hydraulic motors for greater efficiency and, Mr Ferreira pointed out, farmers could order their own personal preference of tracks or single or dual wheels.
The cab is new and, while bigger and quieter with more storage space and cup holders, will be familiar to John Deere operators with main controls and information displays in their usual positions, Mr Ferreira said.
The Signature Edition, which comes with most of the John Deere technology packages as standard, also features a heated and cooled suspension seat for the operator with back and under-thigh massage.
Mr Ferreira said it has proved very popular with everyone who had sat in it.
A new infotainment system also provides better connectivity.
All lights on the X9 - there are two 360-degree light packages - are now LED and the electrical system is upgraded to three batteries and a 330amp alternator.
"If a customer wants to add extra lights or monitors or whatever needed to run their operations, there is enough reserve power to run them," Mr Ferreira said.
p AFGRI has not yet finalised its demonstration schedule for the John Deere X9 1100 combine harvester, so keep watching afgri.com.au/news-and-media and Farm Weekly for information on where and when it will be on show or contact your local AFGRI dealership.