Soybean School: Cutting back harvest losses at the header


Even for seasoned soybean growers, harvest losses happen, and it’s estimated 80 percent of harvest losses occur at the header with soybeans. At $11/bushel, getting a few extra bushels off each acre adds up quickly.

Just how losses are affected by combine header design and harvest speed was the subject of a two-year study by the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI).

To talk about the 2016-17 harvest loss study, Kelvin Heppner caught up with Lorne Grieger, with PAMI, at the CropConnect conference in Winnipeg for this Soybean School episode.

PAMI’s researchers compared four 35′ headers in 2017 — draper and auger designs, with and without wind systems. Grieger says they ran two combines at once, across four replications of swaths in the field to count beans left behind at the header across eighty field-scale plots. 2017 was a much drier year for the study, and the crop set pods much lower, which made harvest more challenging.

Having a wind system or air reel reduced losses significantly — by 38 percent or 1.1 bu/ac — across both systems in 2017. PAMI’s researchers saw similar results on auger header testing in 2016.

They also looked at harvest speed. 2016 certainly reinforced that losses can climb when you approach five miles per hour, but the dry conditions in 2017 led to a contrasting result — there wasn’t a significant difference, even at speeds up to six miles an hour. Grieger says the dry conditions may have contributed to more shattering and less variation between speeds.

Grieger says they’d like to continue the study into 2018 to amass more data and see if they can establish some trends, or identify more clearly how very dry conditions impact header losses. They may also look at what role header angle may have on changing losses, if the study allows.

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Soybean School (view all)Season 7 (2018) Episode 27

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