New header front offers the best of both worlds
RIVERINA grain producers, Andrew and Karly Dumaresq, say their new high performance CLAAS CONVIO front is equally at home direct heading canola, handling heavy or light cereal crops at any speed or scooping up low-lying pulse crops or lodged cereals.
Purpose-engineered for use with CLAAS LEXION combine harvesters, it features twin 1080 mm variable speed side belts and two 425 mm diameter feed augers that supply the 1329 mm trough belt and feeder house with a smooth and consistent crop flow in all harvesting conditions.
Andrew and Karly Dumaresq grow about 1600 ha of wheat, canola and lupins across a range of owned, leased and share-farmed property based at ‘Gregadoo Park’ on the southern outskirts of the regional city of Wagga Wagga.
Each year, they grow about 800 ha of wheat, 400 ha of canola and 400 hectares of lupins under a continuous, zero-till, controlled traffic program. With diligent attention to all aspects of their operation, particularly sowing on time and retaining soil moisture, the Dumaresq aim to achieve yields of about 5 t/ha for wheat, 2.5–3 t/ha for canola and 2.5 t/ha for lupins in a ‘typical’ year.
The Dumaresqs were one of the first Australian grain producers to take delivery of a 12.3 metre CONVIO front in time for the 2018 harvest. They are well-equipped to provide a meaningful comparison with the state-of-the-art CLAAS VARIO variable cutterbar, which is regarded as the ‘benchmark’ front for LEXION.
VARIO allows the distance between the knife bar and the intake auger to be adjusted by up to 70 cm ‘on the go’ to suit different crops and harvesting conditions, including direct heading canola crops.
“We’d been using a 10.5 metre VARIO front for eight years and we were very happy with it,” Andrew says. “They were a big improvement over the traditional fronts we’d been using. It does an excellent job direct heading canola and if I was only growing canola, I’d probably stick with it. But our cropping program means we need a front that can also handle cereals and lupins efficiently and we think CONVIO has the edge in this regard."
“It takes harvesting to the next level. It gives me all the advantages of a draper front when harvesting cereals and lupins but it can still handle direct heading canola. It’s definitely better than a conventional draper front and in many ways, it’s even better than the VARIO front. We did a demonstration with the CONVIO front for a couple of days, which enabled us to get a pretty good handle on how it performed. It was just as good as the VARIO in canola. The feed augers stop the crop from flicking over the back of the draper or wrapping around the reel."
“However, its performance in a short, light crop of lupins was a real eye-opener. It reduced grain loss significantly."
CONVIO features automatic belt speed, cutterbar height control and reel torque control functions that automatically adjust key components for optimal crop flow. “The automatic belt speed function matches the belt speed to the ground speed of the harvester,” Andrew says.
“It runs itself. It will slow the belt down if throughput is too high or vice versa. You can change the speed of the various components individually but we just leave it on auto. The reel, centre belt, side belt, feed augers and feeder housing can all be reversed, meaning any blockages can be sorted out on the go.
The CONVIO front is fitted to a three-year-old LEXION 760 with TERRA TRAC, which makes light work of the three week-harvest season commencing in late November. “This is our third LEXION and we are more than happy with its performance,” Andrew says.
“Our initial motivation for switching from a single rotor harvester to LEXION a decade ago was getting the capacity to handle large amounts of straw. At the time, we wanted to cut the crop as close to the ground as possible so that we could get our tyned seeder through the stubble the next autumn.
“Now we’ve gone the other way. We moved to a disc seeder in 2012 and we want to retain the straw to conserve soil moisture. We only take as much of the straw as we need to get the grain and leave the rest.
“We now utilise the extra capacity by increasing throughput. We want to go as fast as we can whilst minimising grain loss. Between the front and the harvester, we can happily sit on 45 t/hour, so we are actually doing less rotor hours each season than before.”
The LEXION is equipped with a 461 hp Perkins Tier 3 engine, 890 mm tracks and a 7XL unloading auger. “We wanted the tracks for improved access and we went for the widest tracks available,” Andrew says.
“Our country can get pretty wet and we wanted maximum flotation with minimal compaction. The year we ordered it was one of the wettest years we’ve had in decades and 50 percent of our property was under water.
“Rain hasn’t been much of a problem since 2016 but we’ve come to appreciate the benefits of the tracks in their own right. It is so smooth. The hydraulic suspension and automatic levelling reduce sway significantly, particularly when operating wide fronts at high speeds. The overall machine width of 3.8 metres doesn’t worry us because we don’t have to travel on any public roads.”
Andrew’s LEXION is also equipped with a 7XL unloading auger, whose 10.9 metre reach enables the chaser bin to remain in the next tramline. It incorporates a 2.1 m folding end-piece mounted to a 8.8 m 4XL auger, previously the largest available.
“This auger has been an important piece of the puzzle of achieving true controlled traffic farming because for the first time, our tractor and chaser bin are following tramlines instead of going cross country,” Andrew says. “It has been a slow process of getting all of our machines to line up over the past 10 years but now everything in paddock is on guidance and following the same tracks.”