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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Up Close with a Combine Harvester

We all know what a combine looks like driving by in our cars, but what about up close and personal?  I tried to take some close up pictures of some of the parts of our combine, so maybe you can start to understand how it all works to get food to you and your family.  No, I am not sending a camera through the combine while it is harvesting, but I did take pictures while we did some maintenance the other day.

The sickle moves back and forth very quickly and is extremely sharp.  It cuts the plants off so we can harvest the seeds.

The black thing is called the reel.  It pushes the cut off plants into the header, so they don't fall onto the ground.  The green thing is called an auger.  It pushes the cut off plants to the center of the header where they enter the...

Feederhouse.  I like to call the feeder house the throat of the combine.  It is what connects the header to the main part of the combine.

Above these grates is a rotating drum, called the "rotor".  The rotor has bars that rub the crop and tines that fluff.  The goal is to get the soybeans to fall through the grates and onto the augers at the bottom that carry the grain further back away from the stems and chaff this completes the threshing portion of the machine.

Now for the separation of the grain After the rotor, the pods, leaf pieces, small stem and seeds must be sorted out over the sieves.  These huge grates shake back and forth forcing the material to travel towards the back of the combine.  Gravity helps us out as the seeds are heavier and the grain will fall through the holes and down to more augers to carry it to the grain tank. More help comes from a large fan that helps blow the lighter material towards the back of the machine.

We can adjust the size of the holes depending on what crop we are harvesting and how easy it is for the combine to separate the soybeans from the pods.

Combines have lots of moving parts, belts, and chains. However the modern hydraulic systems have reduced many of moving parts when compared to earlier models.

Here is the outside of the elevator that takes all the clean grain up to the top of the combine and into the grain tank.  Yes it is very similar to an elevator you would ride in except this one has a chain with rubber paddles that continue to turn and we want the grain to go up only.  There is not a down button on this elevator.

Another view of the sieves from the back of the machine.

These "knives" chop up the plant material as they leave the combine.

These "fins" make sure the chaff and stalks are directed in different angles behind the combine, so the "residue" is spread across the path of the combine.  Since we no-till farm, it is very important that all the plant material is spread out across the field as much as possible.  It is also great food for the earth worms living in our fields.  They break the plant material down into food that our crops can use next year.
The view directly behind the combine.  I never stand behind the combine when it is harvesting.  The dust, bean pods, and stalks come flying out of there at high speed and make a huge cloud of dust.  The residue covers about 30 feet of the 35 feet the combine cuts with each pass through the field.

What comes out the end of the combine is very important.  We spend time looking through the chaff and stems to make sure the combine is collecting all of the grain and not throwing it back on the ground.  As you can see there are lots of pieces to the combine and they can all be adjusted to make sure the combine collects all the grain and we don't waste any.

What else would you like to learn about when we are harvesting?  I will try to put together another post on my views from the combine cab and all the buttons and dials I have to use to get the combine to work properly and maybe even a video.

-A Kansas Farm Mom with special thanks to my Kansas Farmer husband for providing extra details for you all.


  1. It's neat to see the all the working parts. When we were riding in it, all we saw was plants in, soybeans to the bin, the rest of it flying out the back. We had a great time today!

    1. Thanks Paula! I am glad you enjoyed yourself as much as Travis. :) Have a great day!

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