HarvestersThe self-propelled combine turns 75

John Deere’s self-propelled combines remain the reli­able and indis­pens­able assis­tant in grain harvesting. As this revo­lu­tionary piece of farm machinery reaches its 75th year mile­stone, farmers and contrac­tors around the world use John Deere combines to harvest half the world’s grain.

A story of tech­nical inno­va­tion, The Furrow looks back on this icons evolu­tion from the Model 55 to the X Series. John Deere brought the first self-propelled combine harvester onto the market in 1947, the Model 55. 

Model 55: A first in self-propul­sion

Regarded as an exem­plary role model for combines, its devel­op­ment reflected the company’s reac­tion to the progres­sive mech­a­ni­sa­tion occur­ring in agri­cul­ture. In the years that followed, John Deere’s focus was primarily on self-level­ling machines, with the likes of the 55 hill­side combines entering the firm’s fleet. These machines showed the best threshing produc­tivity in this demanding area. Year after year, the combines contin­u­ously evolved and with that so did farmers’ oper­a­tions – harvesting their fields faster and more effi­ciently.

Steering systems in focus

At the turn of the century, steering systems increas­ingly came into focus with John Deere taking up this chal­lenge early on. The devel­op­ment of its Green­star 1 Display allowed for parallel guid­ance as early as 1999. Just three years later, a hands-free steering system was intro­duced with Auto­TracTM, and the first gener­a­tion StarFireTM receiver. Harvest accu­racy was furthered with the intro­duc­tion of the Modular Telem­atics Gateway (MTG) modem.

Rapid devel­op­ment has meant that with today’s T, S and X Series models, farmers and contrac­tors can use real-time data on machine perfor­mance and posi­tioning as well as remote moni­toring and crop analysis.

Self-propelled at a glance

From 1947 to 2022, John Deere has played a signif­i­cant role in the devel­op­ment of combines. The company has repeat­edly provided market impetus with its inno­va­tions, as the below exam­ples show:



The first self-propelled combine was the Model 55


The first slope combine came onto the market


The early trac­tion wheels were made of steel, with rubber coming into use 40 years later


The world’s first hybrid combine (CTS)


Soft­ware conquers the cab with the intro­duc­tion of the Green­star 1 Display


Wire­less machine commu­ni­ca­tion


Half a million combines were sold (9870 STS)



John Deere´s history at a glance

Tech­nical inno­va­tions from 1947 to 2022


History of harvest inno­va­tion



The combine anniver­sary page of John Deere

75 years of combine harvesters – a chron­icle of inno­va­tion