In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Make Your Soybean Platform Smile
Jul 22, 2012
Everybody wants their soybean fields to look like pool tables after they finish harvesting them. There are two components to leaving soybean fields looking like pool tables
The sickle has to be near-new condition. Most folks do a good job replacing sickle sections as needed. Don't forget to check the wear surfaces of the knife guards. Even a brand new sickle can't do its best job if the knife guards have rounded edges.
The second factor controlling "quality of cut" from bean platforms is the ability of the cutterbar to follow the ground. With a platform raised, a flex-type cutterbar should "smile" when observed from the front--the center should droop several inches below the ends. A cutterbar that is straight, or that has a crooked smile, won't accurately follow the ground and will leave beans in the field. If the cutterbar is smiling nicely, it's good to check for easy flexing of the entire cutterbar. With the safety stop on the feederhouse lift cylinders in place, put your shoulder against a skid shoe under the middle of the cutterbar and give a sharp upward shove. The cutterbar should flex upward, and on 25- to 40-foot wide platforms, a small "wave" should move toward the ends of the cutterbar.
There are dozens of causes for an impaired "smile" or stiff cutterbars. It could be as simple as dirt and debris accumulated on top of the skid shoes, that prevents the cutterbar from flexing. Or it could be as complicated and expensive as bent support arms or push links that connect the cutterbar to the platform frame. Bent arms or links are annoying because a bend of as little as 1/4-inch can make a big difference in how well a cutterbar "floats." The only way to truly tell if an arm or link is the cause of a crooked smile is to replace it. Arms and links are expensive to buy, and replacing them from underneath a platform is a dirty, often annoying job, but if you're looking for a pool table finish in all your soybean fields this fall, it's going to take time and money this summer.
But...with soybean prices skyrocketing to the point where a 100 soybeans are worth a penny (180,000 soybeans per bushel, and soybeans worth $18/bushel), it doesn't take long for a bushel or two of loss at the platform to add up to serious money. Time spent prepping soybean harvesting platforms this summer will be well worth the effort this fall.