The Agronomists, Ep 82: Lorne Greiger, Bryan Lung, and Mike Staton on managing harvest losses


When talking soybean harvest losses, all the focus is on the header. But for canola, losses add up at the header and through the combine. Understanding how to manage those losses is a mix of agronomy, mechanical know-how, and patience.

To break down the process, this episode of The Agronomists features Mike Staton, soybean expert with Michigan State University, and the Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute’s Lorne Greiger and Bryan Lung.

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  • We’ve got Michigan in the house! Go Spartans!
  • Miles, kilometres, it’s all the same to Canadians (we’re confused)
  • Let’s dig in to managing harvest losses. With beans, that starts at planting by rolling
  • Staton says Canada is way ahead of Michigan on this point. Yay, us!
  • Variety selection matters too. Lodging risk is a varietal trait
  • Lodging risks matter in canola too, though it often is a knitted mass of pods
  • Lowering plant populations can help improve standability of soys
  • Soybean risk is all at the header
  • For canola, there’s header losses, threshing losses, and losses at separation that can all add up to big yield penalties
  • Reports of more lodged canola in Manitoba this year. Seeded late. High nutrient uptake
  • Lodged soybeans require patience. Slow down at harvest
  • Managing a straight-cut vs. swathed crop is different, yes, but some of the same principles apply: first off, MEASURE the darn losses out the back
  • Use technology and stay safe. We have good options
  • Pod-shatter resistance saves shatter losses but CAN require setting the internal components differently to reduce later losses in the machine
  • There are harvest management products (to keep pods from shelling) or for plant dry-down and each impacts the crop differently
  • PAMI and the Canola Council have worked hard at developing some tools to reduce combine losses
  • What’s the plan for lodged beans? If all in one direction, it’s a little easier, but no one wants to only harvest one way
  • Slow down, work at an angle to the planted row, push the reel out as far in front as you can
  • Lower the reel, tip the teeth back and make them more aggressive
  • Speed up the reel in relation to ground speed (which means you may have to slow down a lot)
  • Some farmers have used vine lifters too
  • Take off the air assisted reels
  • What about shatter loss with a faster reel? It’s a fine line, says Staton
  • There’s also work to get done and fields to cover, so it’s a balance between keeping losses to 1% or 1 bushel an acre, for example, and actually getting harvest in the bin
  • Does colour of combine matter when managing losses? Greiger says they can all lose, and all be set to not lose
  • What’s interesting is that even older machines can do a great job if set right
  • Bigger headers still require slowing down, even with modern combines. There’s just so much MOG (material other than grain) to work through the machine, Lung says
  • Managing combine settings is going to be something that you have to do on a continuous basis.  Don’t set it and forget it!
  • Think about relative humidity, temperature — it changes from morning to night, and combine adjustments should too
  • Don’t blindly trust the loss monitor. It may not pick up 0.5% loss
  • Checking losses of beans happens at the head, not behind the combine
  • Throw 10, one-foot squares across the width of the head, count them up. Four beans per square foot is about a bushel of loss
  • Pre-harvest products change the consistency of the material going through the combine. Dryer, wetter, greener, etc. will require adjusting

Clip 1: Shawn Senko in this Canola School on managing losses

  • Is the “canola” setting on the combine right? Lung says it’s an excellent starting point
  • What to do about green stems?
  • Why do they happen in beans? Usually the mark of a year where conditions change late
  • Staton says don’t wait to harvest, or you’ll risk shatter losses
  • The combine is a continuous process machine. And the idea that, that you want to optimize the Combine tells me that the throughput needs to be as even as possible.

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