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October 12, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

October Harvest Hum: Bushels and Acres

Wherever the crop is, you’ll find farmers hard at work, not behind the plow, but behind the wheel of a diesel tractor or harvester efficiently helping feed the world.


The sound coming from the Midwest right now is of tractors and farmers working non-stop from the plains to the delta and reaches of Wisconsin, harvesting the crops that will feed the world during the coming months.

Corn, soybeans and other crops are now coming in and are the target of massive, efficient, harvesting machines, some over 40 feet wide working 24/7 to capture the crop just at the right time. It’s a three step process; picking, threshing and cleaning that is now super high-tech.

High-tech harvesters need high-tech clean power, and all rely on diesel, ranging in size from 9L (rated at 300 hp) to 13.5L and 500 hp. They enable tremendous productivity where time and weather dictate harvest opportunities. It’s a highly orchestrated ballet. A combine harvester working 21.8 acres/hr. traveling at 5 mph will fill its 320 bushel hopper full of corn every 11 minutes. A tractor and harvest wagon meetup for the harvester to discharge its catch to the empty wagon. Some of these tractors operate autonomously synced with the harvester, to minimize unloading delays.

Corn and soybeans are staple crops that are the building blocks of many food and other products. As of right now, about 22 percent of all corn crops are in, falling behind last year’s harvest at this time (33 percent), thanks to rain in the plains. Projected U.S. corn yields are running below last year but are set for an upward push in coming weeks.  

According to the USDA, soybean yields thus far in 2017 are at about 48 bushels per acre. Of the 18 states that grow the bulk of the U.S. soybean crop, several have crossed the halfway mark, including Arkansas (62 percent), Illinois (52 percent), Louisiana (91 percent), Michigan (51 percent) and Mississippi (73 percent).  

Wherever the crop is, you’ll find farmers hard at work, not behind the plow, but behind the wheel of a diesel tractor or harvester efficiently helping feed the world.   



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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