What is the role of a Combine Harvester?

For the past several centuries, grain crop harvesting has been key to seed production and food and animal feed supply. Due to increases in demand during the 20th century, harvesting productivity has had to improve to keep up. To meet these demands, in the 1950s, the first self-propelled Combine Forage Harvesters were built: harvester combined with a threshing system in a single machine capable of operating without being trailed. The machine allowed farmers to combine grain harvesting and processing operations, yielding clean grain in one pass.

Throughout the years, the Combine Harvester models were greatly improved with the addition of more efficient guiding and grain processing systems, though the operation itself has remained similar.


What are the Combine Harvester components?

A Combine Harvester is equipped with a front-end tool adapted to the harvesting application:

(A) – Cutterbar Head: This is themost populair front attachment for harvesting wheat, barley, rapeseed or even rye. It includes a reel that guides the tips of the cobs into the head and a cutterbar that chops off the stalks. A feeder system, via augers or conveyor belts, transports the cut crop towards the Combine Harvester.

(B) – Corn headers: This implement is especially suited for corn harvesting, but it can also be used for other crops such as sunflower. It is equipped with a set of rotating gathering chains that capture the crop and guide it towards the stalk snapping knives. Their rotation separates the cob from the stalk, which is then shredded by a chopping system while the cob is transported to the machine for processing.


The COMBINE HARVESTER  consists of several internal sub-assemblies, with varying design depending on the type and brand of the machine:

(1) – Conveyor: This component, thanks to a conveyor chain with bars, transports the crop from the front attachment to the harvester’s interior.

(2) – Threshing unit: The components of this sub-assembly vary greatly according to the manufacturer and machine model. However, you’ll find universal parts such as the Threshing drum (or the Rotor) which, via friction against the one-piece concave, separates the kernel from the cob: this is referred to as threshing.

(3) – Separating unit: This system also varies according the manufacturer and machine model. The system may include components such as the impeller or the beater which mainly improve crop flow. However, you’ll get the same grain separation thanks to the straw walker technology (sometimes fitted with an agitator) or rotary dividers.

(4) – Cleaning unit : This sub-assembly cleans residual grain impurities through the combined action of oscillating sieves and a fan system.

(5) – Grain and tailing collection: The clean grain recovered from the preceding Systems is transported via elevator chains to the internal grain tank. The poorly threshed pieces of cob are guided towards another elevator and resent to the threshing system.

(6) – Chopping system: The residue left over after the threshing operation is evacuated from the machine at the back end and can be chopped if needed by the Chopping System. The chaff left over after the cleaning operation is sent to the machine’s spreader and redistributed in the fields.


What are the leading brands on the market for forage harvesters?

The leading brands on the market are CLAAS, JOHN DEERE et NEW HOLLAND, which together hold about 90% of market shares in France. There are, however, several other manufacturers that share the remaining 10%: CASE IH, LAVERDA, DEUTZ FAHR, MASSEY FERGUSON, FENDT, etc.


In 1953, CLASS introduced its first Trailed Combine Harvester, the HERCULES, followed by a self-propelled version. New machines were later built to continue meeting ever-growing demands in terms of productivity, price and innovation. We now have the LEXICON, a machine that sums up all the CLAAS experience. CLAAS is a market leader for Combine Harvesters with nearly 35% of the market shares in France.

Their offer includes several farm implement ranges, of which some are no longer produced:


NEW HOLLAND has made its mark on the market for harvesting implements since the 1930s. In 1952 it launched Europe’s first self-propelled combine harvester. The brand later introduced some major technological innovations, in particular the Twin-Rotor technology in 1974. Today, New Holland is ranked number two on this market with approximately 32% of market shares in France.

The product range includes several series with varying sizes and technologies:


JOHN DEERE is globally recognised in the world of farm machinery, in particular for its tractors. In 1954, it developed its first Combine Harvester, the “Model 45”, offering a technically advanced and productive solution to farmers. Since then, the brand has continued innovating with significant technological advances such as the GPS system, and currently offers a wide range of farm machinery to meet customer demands.