Optimizing combine efficiency when harvesting soybeans

                  Soybean producers who are worried about the amount of crop that is being left on the ground at harvest time should consider one simple solution—slow down.

                  A recent study by Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) looking at optimizing combine header efficiency when harvesting soybeans showed that speed has a significant effect on crop losses, and that slowing down by just one mile per hour can result in substantial savings. Avery Simundsson, project leader with PAMI in Portage la Prairie, said that as new varieties make growing soybeans more appealing across the prairies, studies like this one provide producers with information critical to ensuring the highest possible return on investment.

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                  Simundsson explained the trails took place in 2016 near East Selkirk, MB and data was collected at combine ground speeds of two, three, four and five miles per hour (mph). At two, three and four mph, losses were calculated at about 1.36 bushels per acre (bu/ac) but at five mph, the losses nearly doubled, to 2.18 bu/ac. Assuming a soybean price of $10/bushel, that means the difference between harvesting at four mph and five mph is $8.20 per acre.

                  “We were surprised at how obvious it was that speed could makes such a drastic difference,” she said. “Under different conditions, in a different field with a different combine, the critical speed will vary slightly but there will always be a point of exponential jump like we saw between four and five mph. It might be between five and six mph but producers need to know where that point it for their particular circumstances.”  

                  The PAMI study, which was funded by the Canada and Manitoba governments through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, also evaluated whether auger headers equipped with air reels are more efficient at picking up the crop, and they are.

                  Simundsson said about 80 per cent of losses during harvest occur at the header but adding an air reel reduced losses by more than half when compared to losses recorded using just an auger header. Again assuming a $10/bu price for soybeans, that is a potential saving of about $12.50 per acre.

                  “Our results indicate that dropped beans can be significantly reduced by using an air reel,” she said. “It’s these kinds of relatively simple tweaks to harvest operations—slowing down and maybe investing in an air reel—that can help producers increase their returns by reducing the amount of beans, and profit, that’s left behind in the field.”

                  The complete PAMI Research Report can be downloaded at http://pami.ca/news/

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