PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — High speed and bad combine settings might mean farmers are dumping thousands of dollars worth of seed on the ground, as some growers saw last week at CanolaPalooza in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Seed loss cost can hit $2,360 on a 160 acre field if the operator is running only one m.p.h. faster than recommended, according to PAMI engineer Harvey Chorney. He bases his calculations on canola at $10 per bushel.
At one m.p.h faster than the recommended speed, the loss was $440 per hour.
In another scenario, if the operator combined at three m.p.h., covering 14.5 acres per hour, seed loss would be one bushel per acre for 11 hours. The dollar cost at that speed would be $145 per hour or $1,600 for the quarter section.
In his third example, if the operator combined at four m.p.h., covering 19.4 acres per hour, seed loss would be three bushels per acre for 8.2 hours.
The dollar loss at that speed would be $585 per hour, or $4,800 for the quarter section.
As well, you have to consider that any such scenario must also include the cost the following year of dealing with volunteer canola plants, Chorney said.
He also said growers don’t always factor in yield increase when deciding how fast to combine.
“If you’re accustomed to combining at four m.p.h. in a 50 bushel canola crop with a 30-foot header, you have a big speed adjustment to make if you find yourself in a 60 bushel crop,” said Chorney.“That’s a 20 percent increase in the volume of material, so you’re not going to continue at four m.p.h. You’ve got to get down to 3.2 m.p.h.
“Now let’s assume you install a 36-foot header to finish that 60 bu. crop. That’s another 20 percent increase. Now, you should be down to 2.5 m.p.h. If you’re still at four m.p.h., you’re 60 percent over your target feed rate. You can expect your seed loss to be five times greater.”
Chorney said PAMI engineers have checked producers’ combines that have had canola losses as high as 15 bu. per acre.
While it’s possible to fine tune down to a loss of one bu. per acre, you first need to know how much you are throwing out the back and exactly where it’s coming from, said Angela Breckenreed, harvest and storage specialist for the canola council.
She said putting too much faith in your combine’s monitoring systems could mean thousands of dollars of canola seed biting the dust.
“In our surveys across the West, we’ve often seen three to five bushels out the back of combines,” said Breckenreed.
“The only way to know what’s happening in your combine is to start checking with some pans to ground truth your metering systems. We think we have these great monitors on our new combines, but they’re only useful if they’re calibrated.”
She said any size pan will work. It can be on the ground so the combine drives over it, or it can be a pan on a stick with the checker jogging along beside the combine. The important thing is to take the time to do the check.
“PAMI has a small printed card called the Combine Seed Loss Guide. It shows you the six steps you take to calculate your seed loss. And it has all the charts you need to determine that loss in bushels per acre.
“The only part that’s a little bit difficult is separating seed from straw in the pan, and that’s really not very hard. People do that with sieves or by hand. Some people put the sample in a five gallon bucket and blow on it with a leaf blower.”
For more information, contact Brackenreed at 204-720-6923 and Chorney at 204-239-5445 ext. 225.