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Prevent Grain Loss and Breakdowns Before Harvest For a Successful Harvest

For a successful harvest, make sure your combine is functioning properly before heading to the field.

When gearing up for harvest, Marcel Kringe, CEO and Founder of Bushel Plus Ltd., says there’s one major takeaway from their combine workshop: ensure you’re doing your preventative maintenance before you start harvesting.

Comb Through Your Combine
When it comes to preventing loss throughout harvest, one of the first pieces to start with is a thorough check through your combine. While it might be a tedious practice, double checking all the maintenance work of your combine helps minimize any issues during the short window of harvest you have.

That means ensuring that everything is working correctly, from the front of your combine to the back of your combine. Double checking points like knife speed and knife sharpness, as well as your overall header condition, kicks you off for a positive start to the season.

For Murray Skayman, Product Development Specialist at Bushel Plus, one of the most important things to keep an eye on in terms of the header is your knife sharpness and knife speed. “One thing that gets often neglected is your knife speed,” Skayman says. “Speed is important — if you don’t have the right speed, you won’t cut clean, and if you’re not clean, you’re dragging stuff over.“

Keeping that knife speed and knife sharpness in mind helps ensure that you’re not clogging up your combine or suffering grain loss from uneven feedings.

“The main thing around the header is you want to feed the combine as evenly as possible,” Kringe says. “If you keep feeding piles and piles or uneven lumps, that’s very tricky for a combine to process. This is really where your success starts.”

In addition, Kringe notes that the wear of your guards and your knife speed is also important for reducing your fuel consumption. “If you have bad guards or bad knives on your header, that takes a lot more horsepower to drive,” he says. “You might not think of it right away when you look at it, but it’s super important to keep this maintenance up to date preharvest.”

Moving past the header of the combine, you come across the threshing department. According to Skayman, you want your threshing done in the concaves as soon as possible, as you don’t want unthreshed material getting too far back into the combine.

In addition, ensuring you’ve done all your machine calibrations is important. “It’s one of those things again we can do prior to harvest,” Kringe says, adding that performing calibrations beforehand really ensures you’re performing well in the field during harvest.

After ensuring your combine is completely calibrated and maintained, from there, it’s all about ensuring you’re minimizing grain loss.

Ways to Minimize Loss in the Field
While pre-maintenance on your combine can do a world of good to help minimize your losses during harvest, we all know there’s always a chance that when you start harvesting, there might still be some combine issues that pop up.

“Although that might seem like something to wash under the bridge,” Kris Kristjanson, Technical Sales Manager at Bushel Plus, says, “that could have the potential to be a lot of lost money.”

Checking the actual grain loss of your combine has always been a dusty and dirty job to get down on your hands and knees and look for kernels. It’s also proven that looking on the ground is not an accurate enough method to find all the kernels which represent your lost grain on the ground. Even worse, running beside the combine with a shovel or throwing a pan to catch a loss sample is proven to be unsafe. At the end of the day we all want to come home safe to our families in the busy harvest season. The possibility of getting run over by large combine tires is not worth it.

“When you start the crop season, you have spent money to purchase the best seed and fertilizer,” says Kristjansen. “Every step is well thought out to grow the best crop possible. You’re spending money to have an agronomist come out to the field. You’re going so far as to have fertilizer sample testing in the field, so you have the right amount of fertilizer. You’re spending all this money to grow the best crop possible, so when harvest comes around, you want to make sure to get all the grain in the bin and have the least amount of harvest loss. In reality, harvest loss out of the back of a combine has been seen anywhere from 2 to well over 8 bushels per acre (bu/ac). These are scary numbers but those are real life scenarios that we want to help you prevent.”

He also adds, “In farming you can repeat a lot of things, we can re-seed or re-spray a field, but we can only harvest once. We have one shot at it so we want to do it right, because we reap all the benefits from our hard work earlier that year. We can’t manage what we don’t measure, so we need to check and dial in our harvest losses the best we can at harvest.”

To help minimize losses during harvest and to make this process more efficient and safe, Bushel Plus created the Smartpan System — a remote-controlled drop pan system that attaches with magnets to the back axel or feederhouse of the combine and allows a pan to be dropped in the field with the use of an app or remote control to measure how much grain loss is happening from the combine in the field.

After the pan catches the sample, the sample can be cleaned within seconds through the use of the handheld air separator included in the Smartpan system. This allows you to separate the chaff and straw from the grain kernels in the sample without the use of sieves or your lung power.

The next step is to weigh your sample with the included field scale and input your findings into their SmartDrop app. From there, the app will automatically calculate how much grain loss you’re experiencing in bushels and dollars per acre. “To put it in perspective, the app will also show you the dollar amount lost per hour, which is a big eye opener,” says Kristjanson.

“If you’re losing a few bu/ac it can easily add up to a lot. For example, if you are losing 4bu/ac of canola, at a crop price of $13/bu, and are harvesting about 20 acres per hour, that means you’re losing over one thousand dollars per hour in grain! This is a number we have seen out in the fields. If you’re good to jump in the cab that morning with a stack of $1,000 bills and start throwing one out of the window every hour, then it’s a conversation that we don’t need to have. But if that’s something you do care about, let’s find out what’s going on with your machine.”

By calculating your estimated grain loss in the field, it might cause some time lost to harvest. But, when doing it right with a proper system, it will be safe and time efficient. Therefore in the long run, Kristjanson says it’ll save you heartache and cash when you go to sell your grain.“

If you aren’t currently checking properly and think there might be a possibility you’re losing $800 to $1000/hour in grain, you will benefit from taking 5 minutes to do a loss check with the Bushel Plus Smartpan System. “It’s a big eye-opener for growers in the field,” Kringe says. “It allows them to pause and say: ‘You know what? I do have 10-15 minutes to dial in the combine.’”

When looking for success in the field with your canola harvest, make sure you’re starting with the easiest step: ensuring your combine is running up to snuff.

If you want to learn more about Bushel Plus Ltd’s combine clinics and products, please visit BushelPlus.com or follow along on social media @BushelPlus.