Oct 04, 2009
Maybe my view is biased because I spent so many hours unplugging combines this past week, but soybean stalks seem unusually tough and rubbery this year. Some farmers say it's due to improved genetics that create sturdier stalks. Others think it's due to spraying with fungicides that keep stalks alive and green longer. Delayed frost has certainly allowed full-season varieties to stay "green" and challenge the capacity of combines.
A secondary result is the stubble of harvested beans seems unusually stiff and coarse this fall. I've ran into a couple situations where performance of automatic header height control systems was diminished by stiff stems. On 30- and 35-foot-wide platforms the stubble was actually stiff enough to hold the skid shoes up so the auto height system thought it had encountered a rock, causing it to lift the platform and create a "hopping" pattern through the field. Tipping the cutterbar slightly down made it more aggressive and allowed the platform to cut smoothly.
If soybean stems are stiff enough to "float" combine platforms, it's going to be interesting to see what sort of tire damage we get when guys start fall-applying nitrogen.
There's not much we can do about green-stemmed soybeans plugging combines except hope for a frost and drier weather. Unless it would be to use a softer touch on the hydro-handle whenever the combine approaches an area of green-stemmed beans. IN MY EXPERIENCE--if you wait until the "low engine rpm" warning light comes on before you pull back on the hydro-handle, you've waited too long. Plan on spending a couple delightful hours digging those green-stemmed beans out of some portion of your combine's innards.
On the positive side, I've learned some valuable tricks about unplugging combines. You can sometimes cut tangled, packed stems with a reciprocating saw (like a Sawzall). Depending on which component is plugged, a cable-winch attached to an axle or immobile object can rotate a plugged component and loosen the plug. In extreme cases it's necessary to cut the bolts holding the concave to relieve enough pressure to dig out the machine.
Ahhh, the joys of harvest....