More farmers are trying intercropping for the first time in 2019. Growing two or more crops side-by-side in the same field, at the same time has a number of benefits:
- More crop cover for a longer time period helps re-duce soil erosion risk.
- A diverse rotation with more different crops helps break cycles of disease, weeds and insects. This allows the grower to reduce dependence on crop protection chemicals.
- Depending on crops in the rotation, there can be a buildup of residual nutrients in the soil, thus allowing a reduction in commercial fertilizer.
- Over yielding has been documented. In this scenario, two crops grown simultaneously in the same field each yield more than if either of the crops was grown alone in that field.
One of the most popular combinations is soybeans planted between rows of winter wheat. The winter wheat is combined in July or early August, leaving the beans to mature in full sunshine until they’re ready to combine.
For all the good things there are to say about soybeans, the fact remains that they are delicate and prone to shatter. So combining a standing crop of wheat in a bean field can be a challenge. It’s a challenge Dave Dietrich of Flexxifinger Industries was glad to take up. Located in Assiniboia, Sask., his company specializes in crop lifting options for combine headers.
“The need for something new is always expressed first by the farmers,” says Dietrich, recalling that the need for a bean shield to gently hold the beans down was first brought to his attention about five years ago while he was at the Louisville Farm Show.
In a phone interview Dietrich said, “A couple young farmers stopped at our booth and told us what they were doing with winter wheat and beans, and explained they needed something to prevent damage to their beans intercropped on 30-inch rows.
“Well, that’s basically the business we’re in. We already had a mechanism with our patented FlexxiSelect quick detach device. This mechanism lets you install crop lifters on any header in the world that has a guard finger in front of the knife. Once the quick-detach is installed, you can change a crop lifter in about two seconds. So all we needed was to design a new shield to gently hold the bean plant down while the combine header passes over.”
Dietrich said the key was to hold the bean plant low enough that the knife won’t touch it, yet keep the whole process gentle enough that no harm is done to the plant. He explains that the FlexxiSelect has a spring-loaded mechanism, it’s adjustable and has a pivot so it will float up un-damaged if it ever hits the ground or a rock. If a situation arises where the winter wheat crop has lodged badly, Dietrich says they can al-so add a crop lifter to lift the wheat while simultaneously holding the beans down.
The bean shield has only been on the market a year and a half, but already he has shipped product to Europe, Ukraine and all-over North America. Dietrich says the croplifter component lists for $111.50. The six-inch bean shield adjusts six inches up and down, four inches for or aft and also left and right. It sells for $199.95.
“A typical 30-foot combine header in an intercrop field seeded with a corn planter on 30-inch centers for wheat and beans will need about a dozen units. Each unit is $311.95.”