My last blog talked about how to optimize the flexibility of soybean platform cutterbars to help those units shave soybeans as close as possible. Here are some other factors that influence how well soybean platforms perform.
Ground speed. Some of my customers are tired of me suggesting they slow their ground speed while harvesting beans, but going too fast dramatically influences the quality of cut. There is no specific ground speed that is right for all combines under all conditions. I once had a 30-foot wide platform that refused to do a good job cutting beans if the operator exceeded 3 mph. We switched to a different field, with a different variety of soybean, and the platform happily shaved those beans at 4 1/2 mph. Maybe it was soil types, maybe it was the variety of bean, maybe it was simply that it was 2 hours later on a bright, sunny day and the beans had dried and harvested better. The right speed to harvest soybeans (if all mechanical components and adjustments are optimized) is the speed that leaves the shortest stubble, with the stubs cut off parallel to the ground and not leaned over. Too slow is better than too fast, in the majority of soybean harvesting situations.
Cutterbar angle. Most soybean platform cutterbars provide optimum performance if the bar is tilted downward at the front about 3 degrees. If you raise the platform so the cutterbar is just barely above the ground, and lay on your gut and look sideways under the platform, the cutterbar should be slightly tipped forward. Tipping it further forward can encourage it to scoop up rocks, and can actually increase the stubble height. Tipping so the skid shoes ride on their heels tends to make the cutterbar leave taller stubble, and can make the reaction of the automatic header height control system sluggish.
Direction of cut. I'm a fan of cutting soybeans at an angle to their rows. Drilled beans feed into platforms great; 15-inch row beans feed okay with the row; 30-inch row beans definitely feed better when harvested at an angle to the row. It doesn't take much of an angle to improve feeding. Too much of an angle can make the combine wallow over rows or sprayer wheel tracks and cause the auto header height control to over-react. Experiment to find the best angle to cut by slowly turning off the row and increasing the angle of cut---things will suddenly start flowing better when the angle is best. The downside is that if you unload on the go into a grain cart, your cart driver can't follow a row to space himself away from the end of the header--and, ironically, there's something hypnotic about watching the end of that platform that makes cart drivers creep toward the header if they aren't paying attention.
Autosteer. If you have opportunity to operate a combine harvesting soybeans that has autosteer, try it. Being able to watch for rocks without worrying about staying on the "mark" reduces stress immensely. And, you'll be surprised what you'll learn about ground speed, dull sickle sections, reel speed and other mechanical aspects of the bean platform if you have time to study how they all work together--or not.