It's going to be a challenging harvest.
A few farmers have started harvest. Here are a few things we've seen thus far:
-soils are soggy in our area. Combines are leaving 4- to 8-inch ruts all the way across the field. That means the combines are riding low compared to their soybean platform, which changes the angle of the cutterbar. We're having to tilt the front plate of the feederhouse much more than usual to get soybean platforms to cut close.
-It has proven to be a significant advantage to cut beans at an angle to the rows instead of "with" the rows. When you cut with the rows the combine's tires are already in the depressions between the rows and that accentuates any rutting that can change the relationship of the combine to the cutterbar. Running at a slight angle--generally 3 to 10 degrees--reduces to some degree the depth of ruts and therefore the cutterbar angle. And soybeans feed more evenly into the machine when cut at an angle to the row, wether the ground is soggy or not.
-It will either be a breeze or a challenge to adjust combines to harvest corn this fall. Some varieties seem to be shelling easily--guys make one adjustment and then easily harvest #1 corn. Other varieties have rubbery cobs, lots of leaves, and/or other traits that make it tough to get clean, undamaged grain in the tank. Rubbery cobs require close concave settings and higher cylinder/rotor speeds, and in some cases there is a trade-off between leaving grain on the cobs and selling slightly damaged grain. The alternative is to let the corn dry in the field, allow the cobs to firm up, and then harvest it.
-Another cause of leaving corn in the field during early harvest is often traced to combine operators trying to chop stalks with their corn head. Running corn head snouts close to the ground with gathering chains spinning at top speed cuts off stalks and leaves and sends them through the combine. That's great for the guy running the disk-ripper for fall tillage, but all the extra trash makes it difficult for the grain to separate from that trash during the 15 to 20 seconds it's passing through the combine, and creates problems with corn getting tossed out the straw chopper. Several combines that were spewing grain out the back last week were magically cured by simply raising the corn head to run the gathering chains just below ear height, and then slowing the chains and stalk rolls down to less than super-sonic speed.
As one farmer noted while carving knee-deep ruts through a sidehill seep in a soybean field where he had to constantly change ground speed, reel height and reel speed to accomodate laid-over soybeans that varied in height by more than two feet: "Looks like I'm going to have to work at combining this year."