PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE – A recent study by Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) has shown that two relatively minor changes in soybean harvest—reducing combine speed and investing in an air reel—can bring significant economic benefit to producers.
The study into optimizing combine efficiency when harvesting soybeans was carried out in 2016 near East Selkirk, MB and compared 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.
Avery Simundsson, project leader with PAMI in Portage la Prairie, said that as new varieties make growing soybeans more appealing across the prairies, producers need this kind of information to ensure the highest possible returns.
“We were surprised at how obvious it was that speed could makes such a drastic difference,” she said. “The critical speed will vary slightly from our study but there will always be a point of exponential jump like we saw between four and five mph. 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.
“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 here.