GRANTVILLE, Pa. — A combine speed trial is unfortunately not a chance to race farm equipment across a field, and racing is not the mentality soybean farmers should have when harvesting their crop.
Michael Staton, a Michigan State University Extension soybean educator, explained that finding and others from his research during the Pennsylvania Soybean Board’s first-ever Winter Soybean Congress on Feb. 6 at the Grantville Holiday Inn.
In the combine speed trial, Staton had a farmer harvest at two speeds — the engineer-recommended 3 miles per hour and a swifter 5 miles per hour — to see if cranking up the speed would have an effect on yields.
The faster speed brought in six bushels less per acre than the slower speed.
“This made the biggest difference” of anything in recent Michigan State soybean testing, Staton said. “It was just absolutely huge.”
Most of the losses occurred at the front of the combine, he said.
Staton also tested vertical tillage equipment to see if that could increase profitability.
The Salford is one of the least invasive tillage tools on the market. It provided yields of 54 bushels per acre, compared with 52.7 bushels on untilled ground, Staton said.
With that small yield increase and a $15 per acre tillage cost, “it’s not a big income maker,” Staton said.
The Case 330 Turbo, which is similar to a disk system, yielded 49.8 bushels per acre to the untilled ground’s 48.1. The Case produced a larger harvest stand than the control — 152,000 plants per acre versus 140,000 — but the smaller stand can still produce good yields, Staton said.
When the $15 per acre gain and the equipment expenses were factored into the costs of production, the soybean grower made about $5 an acre extra by using the Case, he said.
The Sunflower 6630, another vertical tillage tool, has concave disks with angled gangs.
The farmer who tested the Sunflower lives in Hillsdale County, which is known for its coarse, dry soil. He lost 6.8 bushels per acre with the Sunflower, but he did not own the machine and was not as familiar with it, Staton said.
One of Staton’s farmer contacts tested a John Deere 724 soil finisher modified with one row of drag bars taken off the back. The farmer got 1.4 bushels per acre more than his control fields. That translated to an increase of $8 per acre.
“You’re not missing anything by not tilling your soil,” Staton said.
Staton also tested foliar fungicides. He ran the sprayer through the control fields with the nozzles turned off so that both plots would get equal tire tracks.
Two sites with heavy soils out of nine total locations responded to Stratego YLD. The yield improvement of 0.9 bushels per acre was not quite statistically significant, Staton said.
When the spraying cost were factored in, the Stratego fields netted about the same amount of income as the untreated fields, he said.
Staton compared Bayer and DuPont’s white mold spraying programs. Such tests are difficult to run because they rely on the presence of the disease, he said.
Bayer’s plan used a dose of Proline at the R1 stage and Stratego at the R3 stage. DuPont called for applying two rounds of Aproach.
Untreated fields yielded 54.7 bushels per acre with a return of $665 per acre. Aproach bumped the yield to 57.8 bushels per acre but cut profit to $647 because it is a pricey product, Staton said.
Bayer’s system produced the best results. The Proline/Stratego fields yielded 60.5 bushels per acre, bringing in $690 above production costs.
The Bayer program also cut in half the amount of sclerotia, the hardened masses of fungus that elevators count as foreign material, in the soybeans. Aproach had essentially the same amount of sclerotia as the untreated soybeans, Staton said.
Generally, the programs were effective at reducing white mold, but there is “not a lot of money to be made unless you have disease pressure,” Staton said.
The most effective spray head remains a single flat fan aimed straight down, he said.
Foliar fungicides can kill a natural pathogen that kills spider mites and aphids, so farmers should consider whether they really need to use the products, Staton said.
Staton tested the effectiveness of manganese sulfate monohydrate. Unlike other manganese supplements, it cannot be tank-mixed with glyphosate. It is hard to mix at all, but it is cheaper and more effective than other manganese products, he said.
Manganese sulfate used to be available in large quantities as a byproduct of film manufacturing, but it became hard to get after digital cameras took over the photo industry. Manganese sulfate is now readily available again from a different source, Staton said.
The fields with added manganese had higher yields than the control fields, but the difference was not statistically significant, Staton said.
Manganese supplements are unnecessary unless one sees a need, identified by leaf yellowing, in the field. A metabolite of glyphosate can also cause yellowing and is often mistaken for manganese deficiency, he said.