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Pitting the brands – US Custom Harvester Chopper Challenge

Progressive Forage Grower Editor Karen Lee Published on 22 February 2013

In its third year, the U.S. Custom Harvester Chopper Challenge continues to pit self-propelled harvesters against one another in the same field.

For the 2012 challenge, five choppers cut down a 1/4-mile field length. The corn was planted in 38-inch rows; the choppers made two rounds and covered about 3 acres.

All but one chopper had 25-foot headers. The New Holland 9060 had a 20-foot head.

“Our objective was to not have company people there tweaking with the machines,” said Dr. Brian Marsh, one of the challenge coordinators. “We wanted to make them work the way they would in a regular setting.”

Click here or scroll down to view a video of Marsh describing the results from this event.

Click here to view illustrations from Marsh's presentation.

Several people and companies donated the equipment, including choppers and trucks, as well as fuel and sample analysis.

The five machines used in 2012 included a Claas Jaguar 980, John Deere 7950 Prodrive, Krone Big X 1100, New Holland FR 9090 and the NH FR 9060.

The Krone had the most horsepower at 1031, and the NH 9060 the least at 544. The other three choppers were in the 800 hp range. Each one had a different chopper, with the exception of the two New Hollands.

Some were brand-new machines and others were well used, Marsh said.

As with any field trial, there were several things out of the organizers' control. Marsh, a farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension in Kern County, said that some of those factors also ended up in the results.

For instance, the NH 9090 had the wrong program loaded in the fuel reading system so it wasn’t running as much power as it should have been.

In 2011, the corn was very dry so the theoretical length of cut (TLOC) was set considerably shorter at 13mm, versus 16 mm and 17 mm in 2012 and 2010, respectively. In all three years the roll gap was set at 2 mm.

In order to measure fuel used, the machines were warmed up, then parked in the same spot to fill the fuel tank. Both the run time and chop time were measured. The chopper then returned to the same fill spot and the amount of fuel to return the tank to full was measured.

To measure the silage, the trucks were weighed empty and full. Each load was sampled in 10 locations and tested for moisture. A particle size analysis was conducted twice per plot and measured using cut length and the Penn State Shaker Box.

A composite processing score was done on 4.75 mm and 1.18 mm screens. The starch was analyzed before and after shaking.

In the choppers used last year, there was little difference in the amount of time spent chopping versus driving around. “This goes into how efficient you are in your operation,” Marsh says.

There was significant difference in chop time with the Claas and Krone chopping for 18 minutes and the other three averaging 24 minutes.

Looking at data from all three years, Marsh commented that field size makes a difference in time spent chopping versus driving.

As far as throughput in 2012, the smaller New Holland chopped significantly less (84 tons) compared to the others that chopped 105 to 110 tons.

Fuel consumption was recorded as total gallons used and gallons used per hour of chop time and per hour of total time. The lower horsepower New Holland used less total fuel, more than four gallons less than the highest consumer – the John Deere.

Even though the TLOC setting was the same in each machine, there was quite a difference in cut length (15.1 to 17.8 mm). While a direct comparison can’t be made, Marsh said, the chopper with the shortest cut length (the Krone) used the most gallons per hour.

Similarly, back in 2010, what was set as the TLOC was not what was seen coming out of the machine. However, there was no difference in gallons per hour recorded that year.

Last year the Claas recorded a high number in tons per hour (342.2) and it cut longer than everyone else (17.8 mm). With its higher horsepower, the Krone chopper had the highest tons per hour (354.9), but also the shortest chop length as mentioned previously.

In the two previous years, the longer the cut length achieved, the greater the tons per hour.

With the particle size analysis, there was no difference on the lower screen. Variation was seen in the upper and middle screens relative to cut length.

For processing score, the smaller, brand new New Holland had a considerably lower score, 35.3 compared to 48 to 53.3. In 2011, all of the scores were equal, but some differences were seen in fractions on the upper and lower screens. Differences in processing score in 2010 were similar to those taken last year.

Even though all of the variables couldn’t be removed, Marsh shared a comparison of tons per hour versus cut length. A trend line revealed a 40 percent decrease in capacity as cut length dropped from 19 to 11 mm. In general, the Claas machine performed just above the trend line and the 800-hp Krone used in previous years just below.

In contrast, another chart plotted tons per gallon to cut length. Here, as length decrease from 19 to 11 mm, fuel usage increased 44 percent.

Again, the Claas machine tends to be above the line proving to be a bit more fuel-efficient. While not significant, the 800-hp New Holland falls slightly below the line.

Click here to obtain more data from the Chopper Challenge. (To find the data, go to the Cotton, Small Grains, Corn & Silage section on the left menu. Chopper Challenge details are available under the What's New heading. Click on "Forage Harvesters 2012.")  FG


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Karen Lee

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Progressive Forage Grower
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