“The technology in these machines just gets better. We thought CRUISE PILOT was good but CEMOS AUTO is better again. It really is set and forget. We can put anyone in the machine and be confident of a good outcome.”
YORKE Peninsula grain growers, Simon and Greg Wheare, are about to take delivery of a new combine harvester that quite literally, thinks for itself. The CLAAS LEXION 780 – named Machine of the Year at Agritechnica last year – is arguably the world’s most advanced harvesting platform. The flagship of the iconic CLAAS LEXION 700 series, it boasts 890 mm tracks, upgraded crop flow and engine cooling systems and a host of smart on-board technology, including the award-winning CEMOS AUTO performance optimisation system. This innovative system continuously monitors and automatically adjusts the fan speed, sieve settings, rotor speed and flap position to optimise cleaning and separation operations. Depending upon which mode is selected, the system helps to maximise throughput, grain quality or fuel efficiency.
“The technology in these machines is great and it just keeps on getting better,” Simon says. “Our first LEXION 770 came with CRUISE PILOT, which we thought was pretty good, but CEMOS AUTO is better again. It really helps you to squeeze the last couple of percentage points out of the machine.”
CEMOS AUTO is operated via an easy-to-use touchscreen terminal, which includes real-time images from the grain quality camera. “It really is set-and-forget,” Simon says. “We can put anyone in the machine and be confident of a good outcome. All they have to worry about is turning around.”
Simon’s father, Peter, is also impressed with the technology. “I’ve been driving harvesters 50 years but there are times CEMOS AUTO does a better job than me, which is a bit hard to accept,” he says. “Anyone can set up a combine harvester and do a good job when conditions are easy – but it’s a different matter in difficult conditions.”
PH & JK Wheare Pty Ltd is multi-generational farming business operated by cousins, Simon and Greg Wheare. It grows more than 1400 ha of wheat, 1400 ha of lentils and 500 ha barley each year across 13 owned and leased properties in the Ardrossan, Arthurton and Maitland regions. The Wheares purchased their first CLAAS combine harvester – a LEXION 600 – in 2010.
“We wanted to increase the capacity of our harvester and we just couldn’t see that happening with the brand we had at the time,” Simon says. “We talked with a couple of LEXION owners in WA and they were very impressed with them. The jump in capacity was noticeable.”
LEXION harvesters incorporate unique CLAAS HYBRID technology, which comprises a patented accelerated pre-separation threshing unit and twin longitudinal rotors. Approximately 70 percent of separation occurs before the crop reaches the rotors, allowing the machine to operate more efficiently and longer in all conditions. CLAAS claims the technology improves throughput by up to 20 percent without affecting grain loss or fuel consumption.
“One of the things we really like about the LEXION is that you can control the threshing and separation systems independently, which makes it a lot easier to keep grain in the machine where it’s meant to be,” Simon says. “The sea breezes we get around here means harvesting conditions around can change dramatically in an hour. The HYBRID system means we can keep going for 10 or 12 hours a day and into the night if we have to. Last season, we hired a single rotor machine and it convinced us that we are never going back to a single rotor machine again.”
This season’s models also feature a crop flow control system, which automatically shuts down the feeder, threshing, separation and grain tank discharge systems if critical load peaks are detected.
Another improvement is the addition of a ‘dynamic’ cooling system behind the 625 hp Tier 4 Mercedes-Benz engine. A 1.6 m diameter fan draws in fresh air from the top of the machine, removes any dust and then pushes the clean air downwards through the oversized radiator and engine compartment. The air is then discharged sidewards through the side vents, creating a ‘curtain’ that prevents dust from rising.
The Wheares purchased a LEXION 770, the successor to the 600 series, in 2013 and then a LEXION 770 with TERRA TRAC the following year.
“We wanted to stick with the wide body so that we could use the same fronts and run on the same tramlines,” Simon says. “We love the tracks – the cutterbar doesn’t sway when we’re going fast or sink when the bin is full. We really like the radial spreader. We can cut the crop much lower knowing the chopper can process the entire throughput and spread it evenly right across the cutting width, which makes sowing much easier. We harvest, we sow, that’s it – we don’t want to be going back into the paddock to manage stubble.”
All three harvesters are equipped with draper fronts for harvesting wheat and lentils and CLAAS P430 pick-up fronts for barley.
The Wheares value the service provided by Kadina-based dealership, G. & J. East, and in turn, the support of CLAAS’ Australian distributor, Landpower.
“A couple of years ago, we had a major engine failure on a Tuesday,” he says. “By Friday, we were harvesting with a replacement machine and by Sunday, our harvester had been fitted with a new engine. Nobody expects a breakdown like that but you can’t argue with their response.”