FMC Pea Harvesters

by Gordy Schultz

Pea Harvesting is under way in Wisconsin this month.  I spent the 1980's working on a pea viner crew.  We started the decade with pull type machines and I watched the advancement to self-propelled machines.   This month I would like to share  some of the literature and pictures I have collected on FMC pea harvesters.

FMC has been the number one name in pea harvesting for over 40 years.  FMC innovated field harvesting of peas.  Before the FMC pea combine farmers harvested peas with a sickle mower and loaded the peas by pitch fork into a wagon or truck and hauled the pea vines to a stationary pea viner.   The pea viner would shell the peas for canning.

The old method added extra labor and risked the freshness of the peas.  Peas reach their peak quickly and must be harvested at the right moment or they will not be excepted by the cannery.  This means pea harvest can come at any time of the day.

FMC changed the face of harvesting with the introduction of the FMC 005-LV pea harvester.  The FMC 005-LV was the first pea combine to bring compact pea shelling directly to the field.  Before the 005-LV farmers used a pea train.  The 005-LV allowed for peas to be harvested and shelled at the peak of freshness.  They could be hauled from the field directly to the cannery.

FMC Pea train harvester on an IH 806


1968 FMC Company photo of 005-LV pea combines on a rail car at the factory in Illinois.


1967 FMC manual photo of a 005-LV pea combine

Pea harvesting was one of my most enjoyable jobs.  I started working on a harvest crew in the 1980's .  They ran a total of 12 FMC 005-LV pea combines for a local cannery.  We would work 24 hours a day during the pea harvest rolling from one pea field to the next.  

The harvest crew consisted of swathers and pea combines pulled by tractors.   The peas had to be windrowed ahead of the combines.  Our crew used a LUV cutter bar to swath peas.  The LUV cutter was a draper type cutter that was mounted on a International 706 tractor that was run backwards. The crew also used Ford 5000 tractors and in latter years New-Idea Uni's.  International Harvester also produced a special swather just for green pea harvesting.

International 275 Green Pea Swather

IH 275 swather on Bolt Brothers Farm

We used Oliver 1655 and Ford 7000 tractors to pull the pea combines.  The combines were big machines but you only needed about 70 hp to pull them.  The combines were powered independently by a Chrysler or Ford engine.  Our crew preferred Oliver and Ford tractors because of their creeper gear ranges.  When you are harvesting pea swaths you want to go slow so that the combine does not plug up.

FMC 005-LV pea combines in the 1980s

FMC 005-LV combine

Unloading peas from a 005-LV circa 1972

FMC developed a self-propelled 005-LV 

Innovation and progress is the hall mark of the farm equipment industry.  There is always a better way.  By the 1980's the pull type pea viner was headed out to pasture.  For a number of years FMC had produced self-propelled pea combines.  These sp machines were often used in Washington state for harvesting hill sides.  We had one on our crew.  In the late 1980s FMC developed a pod stripper head for the self propelled machines.  The new pod stripper eliminated the need for swathing.  With an FMC stripper you could harvest the peas directly from the vine.  

I can remember the first year that our crew had an FMC 125.  We were still running pull types.  We had upgraded to new H2 pull types a few years before and were running CaseIH 7110 Magnum tractors.  The new FMC 125  really out paced the swathers and pull types.

In 1990 our crew went from 12 pull type pea viners to 3 pea strippers.  Would you believe that with 12 pull types we could only harvest 1,100 acres of peas in a season.  Dropping to just three machines we increased to 5,000 acres.  The pea stripper was as big as an improvement to harvesting as the original 005-LV back in the 1960s.  For our crew to run 12 pull types and 4 swathers, including labor costs of 12 men and fuel, it would cost $203,000 to run the crew in a 700 hour season.  The three FMC 125's cut operating costs down to $36,000.  


FMC 125 Pea-Stripper

The theory of operation is as follows:

The pea pods are stripped from the plant by the fingers on a rotating picking reel.  The pods are then moved by two transfer augers to a wide infeed conveyor.  This conveyor feeds the material into a rotating threshing drum. 

Inside the drum a five-beater plantary threshing system rotates to release the peas from the pods.  Open pods and debris are discharged from the rear of the machine, while peas fall through the stainless steal drum screens in to two inclined cleaning aprons.

Leaves and other debris are carried up the cleaning aprons and ejected, while peas roll down onto a forward-moving conveyor.  As peas fall from the aprons to the conveyor, they pass through an air blast which removes light debris.  Peas are discharged from the conveyor into a bucket elevator, which lifts them to the podder belt to the podder chain conveyor.  Where suction fans perform a final debris-cleaning step. 

Peas drop through the podder chain into the large dump hopper.  Unopened pods are returned to the infeed conveyor for recycling through the threshing drum.


FMC PSC 125 Cut Away

Little did our crew know that 125 would soon be referred to as the little machine.  FMC soon had the big 156 in the field.  Peas are measured by pounds per acres.  The 150 hp FMC 125 could pick 10ft of peas per acre and hold 3,000 pounds of pea.  The FMC 156 offered a 100% harvesting increase.  It was a 285 hp machine with a 13ft stripper head that could hold with a 5,000lbs hopper.  Both the 125 and 156 used Deutz engines.

In the later 1990's FMC improved the 156 with modern comforts. The original FMC cab was home made and was not all that comfortable compared to the cab of a tractor.  FMC outsourced to New Holland and started using the TR combine cab.  This cab offered all the comforts of home.

One project that I had a chance to be around was the FMC PSC156 tracked combine.  FMC experimented with tracks to reduce compaction in the field.   The cannery has a schedule and when fields need to be harvested, like the post office, rain or shine the harvester crew most deliver.  More often than not we picked in wet muddy fields.  The heavy 49,000 lbs combines have a real talent for rutting up a field.  I spent many hours operating the PSC-156 on tracks.  Overall it was a good idea but too often the tracks would spin off in thick mud.  The tracked 156 idea was ultimately dropped.


Experimental FMC PSC-156 on tracks

FMC has always lead the way in pea harvesting sales.  It is not the only producer though.  Byron for many years has been a strong second with its own 9500 pea stripper.  Pixall also produces a pea stripper called the Legacy.   In 1998 Byron came together with Pixall to form OXBO.  Based in Byron, NY the OXBO corporation has become the leader in harvesting solutions for sweet corn, green beans, peas, grass forage, citrus and grapes.

In December 2003 OXBO aquired the FMC PSC-156.  FMC is a large multinational corporation that has produced everything from vitamins to construction equipment.   While the FMC pea harvesters are a big name in farming, they were a small part of FMC's business.

OXBO Corporate Headquarters: New owners of the PSC-156 Pea Combine

Today the modern PSC-156 is rolling out of OXBO's Byron, NY headquarters.  The new PSC-156 is the leader in pea harvesting.  It uses a modern cab from Claas , a 350 hp John Deere engine and can harvest up to 3 acres or 10,000 lbs of peas per hour.

New 2004 PSC-156 in OXBO Factory


New OXBO PSC-156 just off the line at the factory

FMC has produced a number of pea harvesting brochures over the years.  These  brochures are difficult to find because FMC pea combines were and are only distributed in limited areas.  The machines are sold directly from the factory to a few distributors.  The major green pea areas in North America that I am aware of are Wisconsin, Western, New York, Delware, Eastern, Maryland,  Washington and Ontario Canada.  Pea harvesting is also big in Eurupoe and Great Britain. 

There are not many FMC brochures around due to the limited market.  I often look on e-bay for FMC pea literature and have yet to see any.  FMC did own Bolens lawn mowers and Link-Belt construction and this literature is a common find on e-bay.  I can not assign a value to the literature because it is so hard to find.  Below are some of the color brochure pieces in my collection.  I also have some single page black and white FMC brochures that are specification pieces.

The FMC H2 was the last pull type model offered before the 125 Pod Stripper.  It is the modern version of the 005-LV.  I have not been able to find ant literature on the 005-LV.  I have come across owners manuals.

The FMC PSC 125 Pod Stripper revolutionized green pea harvesting.   This is the original introduction brochure.  It is a five page fold out. It has a few color field shots of the 125.

This brochure features both the PSC 156 and 125.  It has several good color pictures of the PSCs harvesting and unloading.

The FMC Model 979 was the first 6 wheeler pea combine.  It is an odd ball in the FMC line.  The cab and front design of the 979 was much different than the PSCs.  The 979 was powered by a 300 hp V-8 Deutz engine and could hold up to 3,968 lbs of peas.  This machine was sold on the world market in England, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USSR.

This is the most modern FMC color brochure that I have in my collection.  Again it features both PSC combines.  After this brochure FMC offered black and white single page flyers on the PSC-156 with the New Holland TR combine cab.

The wonder of the internet is changing the literature hobby.   FMC pea harvesting literature is a rare find.  The only reason I have brochures in my collection is because I worked with the machines and visited the sole FMC dealer in Wisconsin many times.  Today, thanks to the internet you can look up the new OXBO PSC-156 up online and print out your own brochure at:



TTT June 2004 Page 10

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