Rapid advancements in harvest technology

Australians pivotal to development of harvesters

On Farm
A John Deere 830 and Sunshine No.4 header at work at the Croppa Creek vintage harvester display in 2019. Picture: Jeff Nixon

A John Deere 830 and Sunshine No.4 header at work at the Croppa Creek vintage harvester display in 2019. Picture: Jeff Nixon

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The development of harvesting implements, and later self-propelled harvesters, during the 20th century changed the face of farming.

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The development of harvesting implements, and later self-propelled harvesters, during the 20th century changed the face of farming.

On July 25, 1946, QCL reported on demonstrations of International Harvester's No. 2 ensilage harvester in the Lockyer and Fassifern districts and the sale of "four machines, the only ones available at present".

By July 12, 1951 an article appeared with the headline "All-crop harvester with a difference".

"Out for the first time this year on sorghum the Allis Chalmers All-Crop harvester is getting a thorough workout in the Kingaroy district," the article states.

"The All-Crop harvester is a trailed machine able to handle all types of small grains, beans, seed crops and sorghums."

Australian ingenuity helped lead the development of self-propelled combines, with Hugh Victor McKay employing Headlie Taylor at Sunshine Harvester Works.

The company released the Sunshine auto-header in the 1920s and paved the way for Thomas Carroll, who worked for Massey-Harris on the machines from the late 1930s.

On September 4, 1952, QCL reported on the arrival of English harvesters.

"Thirty self-propelled combine harvesters, commonly known as auto headers, have arrived in Brisbane from the United Kingdom. They will be distributed by H. V. McKay Massey Harris Pty. Ltd," the article reads.

Two years later on September 23, the debut of the Canadian-built Cockshutt was reported.

"A new self-propelled combine with the widest cut in Australia and great advantages in threshing and cleaning, made its debut at the Royal Adelaide Show."

In 1975 New Holland introduced its Twin Rotor harvesters before the game shifted even further in 1977 with the release of International Harvester's Axial-Flow.

Other manufacturers followed suit, with John Deere releasing its "New Generation" of rotary combines before the close of the decade.

By the 1980s, headers experienced another leap forward with the addition of on-board electronics.

An article in Queensland Country Life on July 19, 2007, about a header breaking the 100 tonnes per hour mark.

An article in Queensland Country Life on July 19, 2007, about a header breaking the 100 tonnes per hour mark.

The release of new features and increases in horsepower continued and by December 2006, QCL was reporting on a two-day event north of Narrabri where "the latest high-capacity machines from Case IH, Claas, John Deere and New Holland were put through their paces".

On July 19, 2007, QCL reported on the Massey Ferguson 9895 header breaking the magic 100 tonnes per hour mark during field trials at Emerald.

The 520 horsepower machine was harvesting a crop of 9.5t/ha Buster sorghum, with contract harvester Bruce Estens saying "A lot of the current model headers have been giving a lot of troubles as they have been getting bigger and lighter".

"But this machine is very big and heavy. It's been built very strong and it's probably one of the heaviest combines on the market."

Fast-forward to 2020 and the impending arrival of John Deere's X Series harvesters in 2021 was the front page of QCL's July AgTrader Monthly insert.

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