Big headers outgrew the time-honored Crary Air Reel system, but they’re back thanks to farmer demand
FARGO, N.D. — Crary started building air reels in the mid-1980s and they proved popular in most crops and most harvest conditions. Then combine heads started growing… and growing… and Crary technology became obsolete.
Heads at 40 and 45 feet are now considered normal. To span that width, manufacturers started splitting the head in the middle, so they had two reels, one on the left and one on the right, explains Ben Richard engineering manager at Crary.
“For the last 10 years, our answer to that has been to put an air bar up front. But our customers kept coming back asking for a genuine air reel like they used to have. They wanted the air reels they bought from us for 30 years, but in a bigger size,” says Richard.
“To respond to customer demand, we’ve gone through the engineering challenges of designing a big split reel and provide air to it. So now we have split air reels up to 45 feet. We just came out with these this year.
“The way we get uniform air across 45 feet is different for each OEM. For example, on the John Deere we have here today, we were able to use something very similar to our standard dual flow system. The challenge is the mounting, the drive train and connecting both halves of the reel.”
Richard says the theory is that a continuous curtain of high velocity air is aimed at the cutter bar, which uniformly feeds crop into the auger without bunching. Shatter loss is reduced because loose seeds are blown into the header instead of falling away.
The mechanism is similar to the original Crary Air Reel.
Eight-inch diameter flex hoses feed the eight inch diameter manifolds that comprise the axle for the reel. Steel drop tubes direct the airflow toward the augers, and can be adjusted for aggressive or mellow activity. The tines, air volume and air velocity are controlled from the cab on the go.
“Our tests show an average gain of one to four bushels of beans per acre. We have an Ontario farmer who gains between four and six bushels per acre.”