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October 13, 2020   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Beyond Pumpkins: It’s Harvest Time

The role of advanced and efficient diesel technology planting, harvesting and transporting foodstuffs from the fields to grocery store shelves is well established and contributes to feeding a growing world.

In a few months, Americans will be stocking up on foodstuffs for traditional holiday dinners. Right now America’s farmers are in the fields harvesting crops that are the foundation of holiday dinners and meals for months to come. It’s an important time of year, after months of planning, planting, tending and treating, the payoff for farmers is the harvest of a healthy and robust crop with a high yield, and favorable market pricing conditions.    

According to USDA, at this point, nearly 40 percent of soybeans (about 17 states) have been harvested, with about 25 percent of corn (about 33 states). Wet weather patterns in some states in the Midwest have delayed some time in the fields. Good news at this stage is that yields for soybeans this year are up about 9.5 percent - that’s 51.9 bushels/acre compared to 47.4 in 2019. More yields per acre typically means good news for farmers where their practices such as soil, pesticide and fertilizer management, along with some luck from the weather, pay off. Also important in achieving high yields is efficient harvesting equipment and machines, and here the choices and innovations keep improving.

While there are over 40 different varieties of field crops, ranging from barley and beets to sorghum and taro, the two largest and most significant crops - soybeans and corn - are currently coming out of the fields and on their way to market.

What does it take to get soybeans and corn from field to market? 

Diesel power.

It starts in the field where diesel-powered combines descend on the fields to pick the crop. The reliability and performance of these machines is critical as they need to be able to do their work in narrow windows of time, considering weather, crop conditions and many other factors. Reliability and uptime are key. 

While much talk about innovation and technology these days centers around computers, phones and software, farm equipment manufacturers are at the forefront of bringing big efficiency and other benefits into the farm field.  

Deere Combine

New combines from John Deere deliver an average of 45 percent more harvesting capacity across all crops, with no sacrifice in grain quality - all while using 20% less fuel. One model - the X9 1100 can harvest up to 7,200 bushels an hour in high-yielding corn, which is more than enough to fill seven semi-trailer trucks per hour.

CASE Tractor

Case combines range in HP from 265 to 375 with the most advanced fourth generation clean diesel engine available, and electric shift transmissions, making them high-efficiency combines with built-in fuel economy. 

AGCO Harvester

AGCO’s Challenger brand combine harvesters have their own share of options at 375 to 460 hp, with boosted unloading power to 490 hp. 

Once the grain is harvested it is transported quickly from the field to a cooperative or other distribution center. Moving the grain from field to a grain market cooperative typically requires a fleet of tractor trailer trucks, equipped with dump trailers. And like other heavy-duty commercial trucks, more than 90 percent of these are typically powered by diesel. With narrow harvest windows, these trucks need to be available and in operation 24/7 during harvest time (yes fields are harvested at night in some circumstances!). 

From the grain cooperative collection points the product generally moves to storage silos, where crops like soybeans and corn are loaded on to rail cars for shipping to food processing plants or livestock farms throughout the U.S. In the Midwest, bulk farm commodity movements also occur on the network of America’s waterways system, where barges, tugs and pushboats - all powered by diesel - move the shipment to the receivers port.   

And from there, the food is processed and transported to your grocery store shelves by... you guessed it... a diesel-powered truck. The role of advanced and efficient diesel technology planting, harvesting and transporting foodstuffs from the fields to grocery store shelves is well established and contributes to feeding a growing world. 


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Allen Schaeffer
Executive Director

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