The efficient and effective use of a combine during the harvest of crop can help growers achieve higher seed yield and quality which can maximize profitability, says veteran combine specialist John Aubin.

“The grower spends a lot of time, effort, and resources to bring a crop to harvest,” Aubin says. “The combine needs proper configuration and adjustments to achieve maximum performance.”

Aubin owns Combine Harvesting Solutions based in Lewisville, Texas. Aubin, who retired from John Deere, has helped growers in 46 states, plus Australia and Europe, maximize combine performance across a wide range of crops during his 35-year career.

In mid July, Aubin led a half-day workshop and field demonstration on ways to improve combine performance in alfalfa seed during a Combine Clinic held in El Centro in Imperial County, Calif.

The event was sponsored by the California Alfalfa Seed Production Research Board, University of California Cooperative Extension, and Imperial Valley Milling.

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California is the nation’s largest alfalfa seed producer. While most alfalfa seed is grown in Imperial County, other California growing locations include Fresno and Kings counties in the San Joaquin Valley, plus the Sacramento Valley. 

Alfalfa seed is also grown in Arizona with the majority in Yuma County. Seed is also grown in Maricopa and Mohave counties.

Speaking to a large crowd, Aubin discussed the six basic functions of a combine: cutting and feeding, thrashing, separating, cleaning, grain handling, and residue management. He also shared common problems and solutions.

A common theme through Aubin’s presentation was to always operate a combine in all crops according to the manufacturer’s recommendations outlined in the owner’s manual.

#1 - Cutting and feeding – Cutting and feeding is the first function of a combine where the alfalfa seed plant is cut above the ground and moved into the combine.

Aubin says a common problem during cutting and feeding occurs in the platform cross auger and pickup reel areas.

“The combine operator should keep a sharp eye on the crop flow from the header into the combine feeder house,” Aubin said. “The crop should not fall over the front of the cutter bar onto the ground or get stuck on the reel.”

In addition, the platform auger should be properly adjusted to the platform auger strippers. This will prevent crop from back feeding (moving past the strippers over the top of the auger) which can result in early threshing of the seed from the seed pod.