Don’t leave money lying in the field

VEGREVILLE, Alta. – Forget yieldmonitors and the dozens of otherbells and whistles on modern combinesfor calculating yield.Farmers need to know how to calculateyield loss, says Jim Bessel, asenior agronomist with the CanolaCouncil of Canada.Bessell told a recent combine clinichosted by the canola council andprovincial canola organizations thatit doesn’t matter what the monitorsin the cab say about what is beingscattered out the back of the combine.He said farmers need to get out ofthe cab and find out exactly howmuch grain and money they are losingbecause of a poorly adjustedcombine.“There’s a whole new level of technologyin the cab. The technology isso far advanced you need to go backand start at the basics and understandseed loss and how to calculateit,” he said.“If you understand the conceptsand can adjust and set the tolerances,you can have higher profit margins.We don’t want farmers just to be drivers.We want them to be an operatorand be more profitable.”More than 450 farmers attendedthe two one-day s e s s i o n s i nVegreville, and others were turnedaway at the door.Bessel said that kind of interestproves farmers want to get a betterunderstanding of how to adjust combinesto prevent the least loss.“When I see the number of peoplehere, it tells me there are a lot of peoplethat aren’t that sure.”Bessel believes there is an untappedmarket for extension information.During the 1970s, canola associationshosted air drill clinics to teachfarmers how to use the new seedingtechnology.Bessell said the larger, more computerizedcombines presents thesame educational opportunities.The clinics were a chance to showfarmers how little canola needs to betossed on the ground before it addsup to large losses.Bessel showed farmers how theequivalent of three loonies of canolain the corner of a dishpan, or theequivalent of two fingers of Scotch ina small vial, adds up to one bushel ofcanola lost per acre.He said making a few adjustmentsto the air, sieves or cylinder on a combinecan easily add up to thousandsof dollars in savings.“Making a few adjustments canhelp pay fuel, or fertilizer bill for theyear.”Denise Maurice, vice-president ofcrop production with the canola council,said the amount of volunteer canolagrowing in fields told the organizationthat more research was needed onwhere the seed was being lost.“We didn’t know if it was at podshatter, pod drop, at swathing or if itwas in the front of the header or theback of the combine,” she said.Showing farmers how to adjusttheir combines would help reducevolunteer canola that springs up thefollowing year and save money, shesaid. Lost bushels start to add upquickly at $10 per bu.“By doing some adjustments, it willhelp reduce losses.”Ray Latowsky of Lamont, Alta., saidhe attended the clinic because themain speaker was from the PrairieAgriculture Machinery Institute, anindependent machinery centre.“When PAMI is involved, it’s notmachinery manufacturers peddlingtheir wares,” Latowsky said. “He tellsit like it is.”Latowsky said the key point helearned is not to race through harvest at full speed. Rather, he was remindedto forget the coffee shop talk andgo the speed that has the least lossesin the most efficient time.“The speed is the big thing.”Jim Owen of Irma, Alta., looked atthe combine clinic as a refreshercourse on adjusting for maximumefficiency.However, his 1985 Massey Ferguson860, 25 years older than the combinesdiscussed at the clinic, meant many ofthe suggestions didn’t apply.“It’s hard for me to relate mymachine to these. A lot of the adjustmentsdon’t do me any good,” hesaid. “I need to go to an antiquecombine show.”

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