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“Regardless of the color of your combine, the big thing to remember is one size does not fit all.”

— Marion Calmer, no-tiller and founder of Calmer Corn Heads, Alpha, Ill.

Illinois No-Till Legend Marion Calmer has spent the last 55 years tackling some of the most common combine problems that no-tillers encounter.

In today’s episode of the podcast, brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture, we’re bringing you Calmer’s 2023 National No-Tillage Conference presentation about top tips for setting your combine for a stellar soybean harvest.

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Watch the VIDEO REPLAY of this podcast.

SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture

No-Till Farmer podcast series is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.

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Full Transcript

Michaela Paukner:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Podcast, brought to you by SOURCE by Sound Agriculture. I'm Michaela Paukner, managing editor at No-Till Farmer. In today's episode of the podcast, we're bringing you No-Till legend, Marion Calmer's 2023 National No-Tillage conference presentation about top tips for setting your combine for a stellar soybean harvest. The Illinois no-tiller and equipment designer tackles some of the most common problems that no-tillers encounter when harvesting soybeans.

Marion Calmer:

I am Marion Calmer. I'm a fourth-generation farmer and I am the founder of Calmer Ag Research Center back in 1985. My first invention, I was in my late 30s, the 15-inch corn head, the 12-inch corn head. I also invented the BT Chopper. And then I left Deere and Case and then founded Calmer Corn Heads where we now sell combine upgrade parts, corn head upgrade parts, and we build some of the largest corn heads in the world. They've got one now, I think, that they're building. It's either 18 or 19-inches row spacing and it's 45 foot wide, so it's going to be a real monster.

On the west side of Illinois, it's pretty good ground. It's silty loam, so we have a lot of montmorillonite clay, great water-holding capabilities, very productive soils. When I was about eight years old, my mom said, "We're going to take lunch out to Dad." So we got in the station wagon with some sandwiches and some cold tea, and I saw my very first combine run in the field. And that combine was one of the first self-propelled combines built in the world, it's a 123. What's interesting is it has duals and this is like an eight-foot platform. It's self-propelled. Dad's up there, a little dusty, and this is where they sucked the air for the thing.

My grandfather, my ancestors, came from Sweden and they were blacksmiths and luckily some of that is transmitted on down to me. On my mother's side, they also were innovators and they had a corn sheller and they would go from farm to farm. In the old days we used to pick it in the ear and then somebody would show up with a corn sheller. So I have this on both sides of my family, this innovativeness, this harvesting, all those kinds of things.

So combines today still have grain tanks. They all unload on the left-hand side, you get in the cab on the left hand. Now, we were very innovative. We had an auger wagon back then 50 years ago. Yeah, we were big time. We were big-time stuff. And little did I realize that 60-some years later that I would be harvesting and then I would have a lot of combines in my test fleet. So I don't need all of these combines to harvest a couple of thousand acres, but we're testing them. I've got employees that run different colors of combines, different models of combines, and so there's about six or seven guys that are on my design team. They're all farmers. And we run all this stuff every year. Some of the green guys run the red stuff, the red guys run the green stuff.

And so we're taking what we learned from those combines and we blend it together to try to build a really good machine. So this one here, it's a 2188 and we've got it converted over and we cut soybeans-only with it. So 25 years ago, then it had an auger-fed platform on it. And then this is a 2577. Still the same base machine, it's just newer, got a chip in it, but we've got this one. We're shelling corn-only with this one. This is the S680. This is a 40-foot draper and we also have a 12-row corn head.

So this machine, during harvest, it does switch back and forth from corn to beans and that's important because most all of you are switching back and forth. This one here is the 9120. It's got a 12-row folding head on it. And all we do with this one right now is shelled corn with it. So what we're going to try to do is teach the train of thought, regardless of the color of your combine. And the big thing to remember, a phrase, "One size does not fit all." If you think about it, when you're planting corn and beans, when you switch crops, you also switch the plate that's in the meter, correct?

When we harvest, is anybody teaching us to change the size of the openings? And the answer is no. And that's why we all struggle. I'm in that group. And so you're chasing those settings from top to bottom, from left to right and you go home more pissed off than you were when you got in the combine in the morning. And so we're going to tell you why that happens. We've been developing parts to make them work better. And then one day last fall on the phone, I was telling a farmer what I had done to make my red one work and he said, "Well, gosh, Marion," he said, "why don't you just make a kit and I can buy the kit?" And so that's what we've done now is we have some inserts and it's just a real easy switch from corn to beans, and we can also talk about swapping out concaves, as well.

And the other question you're going to ask me, which is the best combine? Sadly enough, I'm going to tell you they go from old to newer and as they get newer, they are not as good as the older ones. That's no surprise, was it? Okay. All right. The other thing I want to tell you is I get a lot of calls at harvest time and the farmer says, "Marion, you've got to help. Dad's always running the combine and last winter Dad took ill and he's no longer with us and I'm in the combine cab and I need somebody to walk me through this. How do I set the combine? How do I get started?" I get at least two or three of those calls every year. So please take time to teach your children how to run the combine, how to set the combine. There's combine drivers and there's combine operators. So take time to teach your children how to run. My daughter, she actually thinks she's better at it than I am.

Let's talk about draper. We run them both. We've got an auger-fed and we've got a draper on the S680. We certainly prefer the draper. I can't imagine buying a brand new green platform. It would definitely be a draper. The other thing that's important, this one has a hydraulic cylinder right in here so we can tilt it back at night when they get a little damp or we can tip it forward if they're a little dry. The newer green combines of course that's right in the cab to adjust the faceplate. The other thing I can tell you, we run the 40-footer and the 30-footer side by side all day and when it starts getting damp at night, my auger-fed platform, I'm going to have to pull out of the field quicker and then the John Deere with the draper, they can continue to run through the evening so they go a little longer than we do.

The other thing is about the width of the sickle. And I learned this years ago because we used to have two combines. One of them was an old Gasser 715, and if any of you've ever been down Interstate 74 going north of Peoria, you see that little combine sitting out along the interstate. That's the combine that I started with back right out of college, and it's got our first 15-inch corn head sitting on the front of it, and it makes a great yard ornament out there. So that combine had the quick cut, which was an inch-and-a-half cut, and then we got another combine that had a three-inch cut and this one here's a three-inch cut and we were running those two combines side by side in the field.

Without question, the three-inch cut was much cleaner than the inch-and-a-half. Now we run this three-inch cut against the Deere two-inch cut. Without question, the three-inch cut is much cleaner. So if you're a no-tiller, some of these should still be sticking up out there when you're cutting beans. And they've got brace roots on them and you get your tape measure out and it's from here to here, it's three inches wide. So you've got to leave enough gap that when you're going along, that sickle slides over, and it's called sickle register where the sickle should stop right underneath the snake head and then this is going to go in the slot and then the sickle's going to travel back and cut it off.

If this bridges between the two snake heads is what's happening in a two-inch cut, and it bridges, then it will push forward and it will push the soybean forward and then you'll get a ragged-looking cut. My humble opinion, there are companies out there that sell a three-inch cut sickle snake head combination to upgrade a Deere draper. We haven't got it put on yet, but that's one of our things we want to do this winter. We can go longer at night with it, but boy, it's ragged looking, so our header loss is higher. It's not because of the draper, it's because of the sickle. And sometimes you don't notice it the day you cut, but a week later you'll see the sprigs coming back up.

How do you determine when we should replace the guards? We can all spot it on the sickle and I'm just about to the point where we just about stick a new sickle in every year because those green stem beans, they're large in diameter and they're tough. Now, the snake heads, when you look at the edge of that snake head right here, it should have a sharp edge and then, once it starts to round and it becomes a little bit dull, then you need to replace the snake heads, as well. The other thing is the hold-down clips, we want to push that sickle down because we want a sharp edge against a sharp edge. If there's an air gap between the two of them, that'll up the horsepower. And of course on the draper head we've got center drive and we've literally pulled that sickle into two pieces on several occasions. We're all combining green stem beans more and more every day.

So, combine harvesting problems and solutions. Regardless of the color of combine that you have, they all have problems. And just in the last year I have been able to figure out the solutions. I've been harvesting since I was 12 years old. Dad put me on an ear corn picker when I came home from school, had a sheller on the back end of it and I started learning about harvesting and I have fought combines for 55 years trying to get them to do what I want them to do. And no matter what I do, I always got chaff or I got pods or broken cobs or corn on the ground or whatever.

And with the older conventional machines, we never had easy access to the concave or underneath the concave. With a rotary combine, we now can open the side panel and we can go in there and we can change out a few things. So we can talk about sieve settings, fan, rotor, all that kind of stuff, but if we miss the mark on concaves that are in positions one, two, and three, we're screwed. People call me on the phone, "Marion, I've got pods in the tank, I've got beans going out the back. Tell me which setting to change." I said, "I'm not. There's nothing you can do. We have to set the combine up before I get to the soybean field, not after I get to the soybean field."

Okay, so one of the problems is pods in the sample. How many of you have ever seen that? That's good. You're normal no-tillers. And then at the same time we close the bottom sieve and we get high tailings. The solution to that one is something I've showed before at this class and they're called cover plates. These are not new. The guys that had old combines 50 years ago used cover plates. I read a book when I was 28 years old. He talked about cover plates for cutting wheat or cutting beans. We're going to show you what they are. They hold the pods so they can thresh. Chaff in the sample. How many of you ever looked in the tank, and the stuff is lighter than the bean and you're like, "Why in the hell didn't it blow out the back end of the combine, because it's got a lead in the air stream?"

These are larger than the beans. These are smaller than the beans. These here are more of a threshing sieve problem. The chaff, it's all about air. All about air. And the reason is because there's too much chaff coming out of the rotor and it gets to the auger bed, the grain pan and the top sieve, and then it overloads the chaffer. That phrase is in the owner's manual, but there's no picture. I'm like, "Well, what the hell's an overloaded chaffer? That's a pretty broad term." I have a picture and I can show you a chaffer that's overloaded and right next to it I'll show you a chaffer that looks normal. So we've got too much chaff escaping the rotor, and MOG, that's material other than grain, and so when we overload the cleaning system with way too much garbage. It doesn't need to be there.

One size does not fit all. The concaves are open enough so that we can flow shelled corn, 200, 250 bushel, 25% moisture. That takes enormous volume. I'm cutting 70 bushel of beans, they're 12%, 13%. And the stems and the fodder's going through the machine and it's dry. What happens when you grind up bean straw? It gets smaller. As it gets smaller, all of a sudden it's starting to drop through the concave and it's overloading the cleaning system. You would be surprised how much you have to close up that combine to keep the MOG in the upper portion and just let the beans drop down. We just learned this in the last two years and I just feel like an idiot some days. It's like, "Why didn't I pick that up?"

Now, if you've got sieve loss, that comes from the same thing. The mixture of soybeans and MOG on the top sieve is too much and it overloads the chaffer. And once that material becomes un-airborne, it sits on that top sieve and it just walks it right on out the back of the combine. And if it becomes un-airborne at the beginning, it's never going to get re-airborne because the highest air stream is always in the front and then it gets less and less as it moves through the back. So if it becomes un-airborne right here, now it's just going to sit on that sieve and it's just going to shake it right on the back. I saw it live one time when I was younger. We had an old red combine. We were on a hillside and I was walking along it and you could just see it. It was just shoveling shelled corn out over that top sieve.

So if you've got a red combine, we're also going to go into the separating area and we're going to put the slotted grates in to close up those openings and keep more of the MOG in the upper portion and just allow beans to drop down through. All right, let's roll along here. Green rotary combine. It's a great machine. It took me two years to get it to do what I want it to do. And the other thing is I have some initials. JDDD and S. John Deere dealers don't know shit. How'd I do? Anybody? And I have another one. We're going to go through the green people and then we're going to go through the red people. The red people have the same thing. Case dealers don't know shit.

Michaela Paukner:

I'd like to take a moment to thank our sponsor, SOURCE by Sound Agriculture. Welcome to a better source of fertilizer. SOURCE from Sound Agriculture unlocks more of the nutrients already in your fields so you can add less fertilizer while getting the yield you're counting on. By activating soil microbes, SOURCE provides more of the existing nitrogen and phosphorus to your crops. It's such a solid backup plan, you'll probably find yourself wondering why SOURCE wasn't the plan all along. Visit to learn more. Now, let's get back to the conversation.

Marion Calmer:

So this is the green rotor. It's a bullet rotor, tri stream, variable stream, whatever. I'm not really fond of the bullet design. The red combine runs a rotor that's the same diameter in the front as it is in the back, but we're right here. This, right here, before we ever combine any corn or we combine any beans, the most important thing are the concaves. These are threshing concaves. This is position one, position two, position three. Now, the green combine, these separating, we're fine with them, I like them, to be quite honest about it. So we're only going to talk about positions one, two, and three. Okay, we've all seen this, pods in the tank. And this is the symptom. We think it's the problem and we try to tighten the bottom sieve, and does it do us any good? The answer is no, and here's why.

That pod is smaller than the distance between those two bars. One size does not fit all crops. I have to laugh sometimes when I look at the parts that Deere sells, the one combine, all crops. Bullshit. We don't use the same plate to plant corn that we use to plant beans. You have to make a change. And what we're doing is adding these cover plates underneath here. If it fell through once, it goes into the auger bed onto the sieve down to the bottom sieve. We tighten the bottom sieve and it comes back around and it's called re-thresh, tailings. If the pod didn't thresh the first time, what the hell makes you think it's ever going to thresh on the second pass? Because the other thing is, the red and the green people, they don't drop the tailings in section one. They drop it back at section two or position two or position three.

So right down here on a John Deere monitor, there's sieve. Here's the combination. Somebody needs to tell John Deere that's a straw walker and they don't make those anymore and they really ought to have an emblem that looks like a rotor. It's just like, "Good God." So this would be considered rotor loss. And then here's the tailings right here and you can see we've got quite a few bars going on. So that's the issue and that's what we see. Anyway, we use, I call them pod-busting cover plates. It tells you what they do, and you put these underneath the concave.

One of the problems we have when harvesting soybeans is that we have pods in the grain tank and this is the real reason. It starts right here at the concave. The pod is small enough that it drops right between the round bar and then it goes down into the auger bed, onto the top sieve, down to the bottom sieve and we try to tighten it and it never works. Anyway, no matter what you do, the pods are always going to drop right through.

All right, you can change concaves, but I'm not going to do that when I'm switching from corn to beans, so they sell... John Deere calls them wide. I'm sorry, gentlemen, you need to learn. These are called large-wire concaves. These are called small-wire concaves, and they've got the smaller, yet, for clover and some other crops. Anyway, these are pretty popular for wheat. These are what they would use for corn and beans.

The problem is, when I put this large wire in a green combine, it'll plug. I put this large wire in the red combine, it works just fine. We're still trying to figure that one out. That's why John Deere's using round bars, is to keep them from plugging in high-moisture corn. So we have un-threshed pods. Right here you can see it's wide open and we put these cover plates on the backside to keep them from falling through. On the Deere combine, I like 13 inches of cover plates and we're going to make them for the OEM John Deere because I tried to buy them out of their book. You can't find them. Now, they make inserts but they don't make cover plates. So retain those thresh pods.

So here, now we're looking on the top side where all the grain comes. Right here, if the grain comes in and the pods are loose, they're going to drop through there. That's why we cover this first 13 inches. This one right here, we take it to all the shows, it's got a piece of plexiglass over. This came right out of the combine and you can see, with a cover plate underneath it, these chambers fill. Once they fill, they create a mattress and then we've got pods rubbing against pods.

One of the things that we see when we're cutting soybeans is pods that show up in the grain tank and we all try to tighten the bottom sieve. That doesn't do us any good, but the real problem starts right here on a red combine with a large-wire concave, is that the pod is smaller than the opening and so they just fall right on through and they never get threshed out. So when I go from corn to beans, we add in this white cover plate down here underneath and what it does is retains the pods to be threshed. So as we dump these, you can see how these pods are falling right through, but on this side over here, they're going to have to rub until they thresh out. And then once we get them threshed out, then it's a lot easier to blow the hulls out and the beans go right in the grain tank. So our solution for pods in the tank is to add these cover plates underneath a large-wire concave.

The next thing, I'm busy switching from corn to beans, do they go in relatively easy? And the answer is yes. We carry a leaf blower with us, we blow off the combine, pop the side shield open and then it goes underneath. It hooks on the right-hand side, an over-center snap on the left-hand side. It's pretty quick. I have been running cover plates for 20, 25 years. I could not cut beans without them. So now we get some nice clean beans up in the tank and we all feel better. All right. So how about those green beans? How many have ever been by a waterway or a creek or behind the trees, and those suckers are still just as green as they were on the 4th of July, but you say, "They're 10% out on the flat. I'm going to cut the field because I ain't coming back."

And I'm no different than anybody else. I got a few pods here in the tank and this isn't a great... But if you were able to see this, this is just yellow, green, yellow, green in here and I just finished going around the waterway. There's the green Lima beans. And people have taught me over the phone, these are called butter beans and then these are dry beans and they're all mixed together. But you notice, for the most part, my tank's pretty clean. The monitor was reading 30% moisture when I went around that waterway and we blend them in.

The other thing I will tell you is when you're cutting these 30% beans to blend, do not shove them to the top of the whopper hopper because it just grinds them all up into mush, but you can, at least until you get to the top of the waterfall. All right, hulls in the chaff. Now, we have something. This is lighter than the beans. Why didn't it blow out in the air stream? It's baffling. So these are round bars that the green folks have, and again, one size does not fit all. This gap is too wide and the chaff, the short straw, the hulls, all of that stuff is ground up when you cut beans. And so when it gets to this, it's wide enough to drop all the shelled corn, but it's way too wide and it drops all that MOG. I don't want it in the cleaning system. I don't need it in the cleaning system. All it does is screws the hell out of things.

So here it is, and I took this photo. I really didn't know, but you can't really see it up in here, but there's a pretty high volume of material. This is a kill stop. And right here the soybeans and the MOG are mixed together and when it dropped off of the grain pan onto the top chaffer, it became un-airborne because the volume of air's not high enough to handle that much MOG. It becomes un-airborne. Once it's un-airborne, it's going to stay un-airborne. And now in this scenario right here, every time it shakes, it just shakes it right on out the back of the combine, it walks it right out the back of the combine.

The sensors on the top sieve are over here in the lower left-hand corner and it picks that up and I'm getting sieve loss and I'm getting chaff in the tank and I'm like, "What in the hell is going on?" This, on a kill stop, this is what it's supposed to look like. You're supposed to be able to see some of the louvers and this should only be one or two hulls deep because when the air stream died during the rolling kill stop, when the air stream dies, that material just drops straight down. I don't know why it took me 55 years to figure all this out.

Now, if I'm a John Deere guy, here's the sieve loss. I've got a lot of sieve loss, combination. Over here, this is rotor loss. I've got no rotor loss, but over here, look at that, fricking tailings. And I'm like, "Why is all that crap in the tank? It shouldn't be there." I had a guy call me on the phone last fall. "Marion, I got an S780, it's a 45-foot draper." And he said, "The tank looks like crap. I've got the top sieve wide open, I've got the bottom one shut and I've got the fan wide open." And he said, "They're going on the ground." And he said, "I'm going to stop." Well, he made the problem worse by opening the top sieve because now he's really letting the MOG down in there and the whole cleaning system got overloaded.

So they have some inserts that we're going to use right here. These I don't like because this gap is too small for the bean and this gap is too small for the bean. So this material is moving at 64 mile an hour. There's a lot of centrifugal force and we're trying to force that bean through here and what it'll do is split it, but it does retain the pods. Here is a look at the material that's coming through the machine and you can see there's the round bar, here's the insert round bar, here's an insert, and what it does is holds the unwanted stuff up there in the rotor where it should be, for God's sakes. And I tell you, you're not going to believe how much we've got to close up the openings in those three chambers.

One of the other problems we have with the John Deere combine is the fluffy trash ends up in the tank, the hulls and the lighter stuff. And the reason is, it starts right here at the round bar concave. These openings are wide enough that it'll allow shelled corn to drop, but it's kind of a liability when I'm cutting beans because I've got a lot of excessive MOG, so it drops here and you don't have to do much to get it to fall on through. And now we're unnecessarily overloading the cleaning system so it's into the auger bed, onto the top sieve and there's just not enough air there. And so we end up just walking everything right on out the back end of the combine because it's overloaded, the chaffer's overloaded.

So our solution is the MOG limiters that we have, our quarter wrap. They are wide enough so that the beans will fall on through, but the MOG stays up here on top and then it goes out the rotor where it should be and it doesn't end up overloading the cleaning system and we end up with a nice clean sample. We don't have sieve loss and we don't have high tailings.

Michaela Paukner:

At this point in the presentation, Marion takes questions from the audience. The first is, what number is the concave you just mentioned on?

Marion Calmer:

This is concaves that are in positions two and three, cover plates under number one, and under two and three, we're putting these inserts in there and we call them quarter-wrap inserts because, like you said, is it easy to switch from corn to beans? And believe me, my guys are pounding us every day. We want this to be simple. You pop the combine open, you slip this in from one side, you snap it up, it's got a J-bolt over center latch and you move on to the next one. Now, the other thing you'll notice is that there's an air gap here and then this insert is up against the bar. We believe we're the first ones that have invented a concept of MOG limiting. These inserts are used for that so we filed for a US patent on this concept and it really works.

So all three of those concaves have to have changes when we go from corn to beans. The rest of the settings, once you fix this, to state one of my employee's comment over the phone last fall when we were running combines, he said, "This thing is set up so well," he said, "I couldn't screw it up if I tried." And that's what I like. I'm smiling when I'm running the combine, it's easy to adjust the sieves and the rotor and everything else, but if I don't put cover plates on position one and I don't put MOG limiters in two and three, I'm screwed. Years ago we started, I told an employee, I said, "Keep shoving in MOG limiters until you can show me some rotor loss." At the end of the day I said, "How many did you get in?" He said, "I got them all way to the back."

That's how much you have to close up those openings. One size does not fit all. We call them quarter-wrap MOG-limiter inserts. They've got self-aligning pins right here. The over-center snap is back here. We're going to have the same concept for red ones. Two pins go down in the bottom and then you just put it right up in there. The other thing is the radius is a half circle and it's just too damn hard knuckle-buster to go all the way around to the other. So we put some of them in on the left side, we fill the left side, then go over and put them in on the right side.

And they're lightweight. I'm getting older, I'm getting smarter. They've got to be lightweight. It's got to be fast and it's got to be effective. Again, I explained that's the problem and once you put those MOG limiters in, then you've got so much less material down here, when you do a kill stop, it'll look like this. Clean beans. God, that makes me happy. I smile. I don't have to bury them in the semi. All right. Pods, need cover plates in position one. Chaff, I need MOG limiters in positions two and three, and sieve loss. It's on the green combine. Once you shove these in there, then the top sieve, I can ease up on the air. I can open up the top sieve and my sieve loss just goes to nothing.

Michaela Paukner:

How many bars should I run on the return?

Marion Calmer:

I would like not to see more than two or three. We are getting to the point where we can just about run the bottom sieve wide open when we're cutting beans. If they get a little damp, like late at night, I've got to close up that bottom sieve. Early in the morning, I've got to close up. But boy, during the driest part of the day, we've got the bottom sieve wide open and then the tailings really go to next to nothing. I'm going to keep moving.

We all know about spreading. You want the chaff and the straw. You don't want any tram lines, but the most important thing is start on the downwind side of the field. Use Mother Nature's wind to help you get an even spread. Also, if you have a fire, it blows away from the crop. I'm going to move on to the red one. I believe this is a legacy series that's at the first models that came out. Now they have the flagship. Same deal, same concept. So for you John Deere people, it'll be a little review. For the Case people, it's just a different color of parts, but it's the same concept.

Pods. And here's our monitor. It shows a lot of tailings. For those of you that run the red combine, you know by now it's beeping at you, telling you that you've got too much tailings and that you've got to change something. Again, the pods, if the openings for corn are large, they have to be because you're dropping 4,000 bushels an hour, they've got to be large openings and you've got to be able to get it through there. But when you cut beans, it's killing me. This is an asset for corn, it's a liability for beans and they drop right through.

So one of the things that we see when we're cutting soybeans is pods that show up in the grain tank and we'll try to tighten the bottom sieve. That doesn't do us any good, but the real problem starts right here on a red combine with a large-wire concave is that the pod is smaller than the opening and so they just fall right on through and they never get threshed out. So when I go from corn to beans, we add in this white cover plate down here underneath, and what it does is retains the pods to be threshed.

I'm going to show you here. Here's the problem, and the solution over here on this side. So as we dump these, you can see how these pods are falling right through, but on this side over here, they're going to have to rub until they thresh out. And then once we get them threshed out, then it's a lot easier to blow the hulls out and the beans go right in the grain tank. So our solution for pods in the tank is to add these cover plates underneath a large-wire concave.

So this is position one and on the red combine, this is about 12 inches across here. We use two plates. They're like five and a half inches wide. The green combine, this is 13 inches across here. Any quick questions? Right. His question is, can we run the wheat combine, the concave, when we're cutting beans? And I can tell you we've tried it. The wires are too narrow and it starts cracking. Some of the beans will fall through, but the bigger Lima beans, it just mushes the crap out of them. So I can't go that way.

For corn, we have to have these wires out in order to get enough shelled corn. Basically, when you get in 250 to 300 bushel corn, it's like 25% to 30%. You just can't get it through there quick enough. So that's an asset for corn, but that's a liability for beans. I had one of the employees was running a 2388 and he had every other wire all the way to the back and he was trying to cut beans. He had cover plates and he was cutting beans and he said, "I can't clean the tank." I said, "Well, you've got to put them fricking wires back in there." And he stuck them in there and he said, "All the difference in the world."

So we're going to hold the pods in this scenario, but then we're also going to limit the MOG. Here it is on the red one. That's the problem. We need to cover that up, put a cover plate, 12 inches, right here to hold those pods. Here's what it looks like. We actually just pull these out and examine this material down in here and it's just ground-up soybean hulls and it makes a mattress. And you can see the beans here. We had a few pods and you rub them. And we will have this at the farm shows if you want to come by this year, Louisville, wherever we might be.

Anyway, I call this the solution. It's a mattress that's formed with the threshed pods. I call it a mattress with speed bumps. That's my favorite term. Here's what it looks like in the red combine. Here's position one, position two, position three. And under position one we put these plates. It holds all the material. Rub it out and then they'll fall in the next one. So now we can get our tailings down where it's a livable situation. When they get a little green, I'll start to see this go up. When they're dry, I got next to nothing. I've been doing that for 20-some years.

If it's the first or the second dry-down on beans, I have to have 12 inches covered. If I'm on the third or the fourth dry-down on beans, I can get by with just six inches, but most of the time I'm running two cover plates underneath there. You got it? 12, 13 inches needs to be covered to get them to rub out. You'll bleed a little bit of horsepower, but it's not real noticeable. I'd much rather do a nice job at three and a half than I would a shitty job at four. The green, well, let me take that back. If you've got a red combine, it'd slow you down. If you've got a green one, just hammer down. All right.

Low tailings. The hulls, same thing. These are okay for corn, but they're letting too much of the MOG escape the chamber. And the other thing is, in this scenario, I can do nothing. From the left-hand side of the combine, I can do nothing to stop the MOG. That's why we pull these out and we convert over to round bar in the red combine in positions two and three. Again, if there's too much MOG coming out of the concaves down into the auger bed onto the grain pan and the handoff is onto this top sieve, if there's too much.

The other thing is the green people have deflectors on the floor of the air stream. They know that there's not quite as much air on the left side as there is in the center, or the right side is weak. So they have deflectors and they push air to the outer edges of that top sieve. The red people do not. And I can tell you from the study, we unhook everything and we stick our head up in the back end of that combine when it's running at full speed and the shakers aren't moving, all we have is a fan running. Up here, from about here over all the way to the other side, we have a lot of air. But back in here you can lay a piece of paper on that sucker with the combine at full speed and that piece of paper will not move.

Interruptions in the air stream caused down drafts. We all know how airplanes fly because we change the atmospheric pressure and things start to go up and down. The bottom sieve is an obstruction in the air stream and that's why we're focused on trying to get that bottom sieve out of the combine. Now, the red one that I run that's corn only, it hadn't had a bottom sieve in it for years and we just love it. Objects in the air stream disrupt it and cause downdrafts. So in some of these places here, you can have a government flag, it'll blow it straight up here, pull it back here, and it'll actually suck it down onto the sieve. Same deal. We've got to hold the MOG in the chamber. We leave enough gap to drop the beans, but it's small enough that it won't allow the MOG.

One of the other problems we see when we're cutting soybeans with a red combine or regardless of color, is that these open pod hulls will end up in the grain tank and they got the fan turned up and it doesn't seem to do any good. Well, this actual problem starts right here at the concave. We're using round bar here in our red combine and these openings are large enough that we use them in corn and it's flowing the shelled corn, which is great, but then it becomes a problem or a liability when we're cutting beans because this MOG, unnecessarily, it just falls right through there and it ends up in the auger bed, top sieve down to bottom sieve. We get high tailings.

But this material here will have a few beans in it and it'll just take all of this material and just walk it right on out the back of the combine. It becomes un-airborne. So our solution then is we have these quarter-wrap MOG limiters that are white. So when I go from corn to beans, we just snap these in there and what they do is decrease the air gap between the two round bars. So now this MOG, it's a lot more difficult to get it to fall through, but they're wide enough. You can see that the soybeans are still going to fall through but we're going to retain this MOG and then it's going to stay in the rotor chamber and go out the back of the combine where it should. So anyway, this is kind of the problem. The openings are too large. Our solution is some quarter-wrap MOG limiters that reduce the sieve loss and we've got a cleaner grain tank at the same time.

In the red combine, we have a 3/8 square bar separating grate. That's fine for corn, but all the MOG fell right through it when I'm cutting beans. I got a lot of tailings, a lot of garbage, a lot of hulls in the tank. So this is a slotted concave. It's a little tough to see because it's black, but here's one of the slots here. You can kind of see it underneath here. Here's another slot over here. There's a slot right there. So it's a bar, a slot, a bar, a slot, a bar, a slot. These are slotted and they hold the MOG in there.

One of the other problems we have with a red combine when we go from corn to soybeans is we get these hulls that show up in the grain tank. And here's another area where they come from is the 3/8 square bar. It works really well for corn because its large openings are dropping that shelled corn out of there. But when I go to beans, these hulls just unnecessarily drop down through here. Then they eventually end up in the grain tank. On this side, the MOG's going to fall on through. The coarser straw is going to stay up here on top. But on this side over here, it retains a lot of the smaller material and it's got a better chance to be able to retain some of those hulls so that they don't get into the auger bed, they don't get to the top sieve.

If we allow too much mog, which, in my opinion, is a liability, then that material becomes un-airborne when it gets to the top sieve and then it just gets walked right on out the back of the combine, especially on the right-hand side or the left-hand side of the machine. By limiting the MOG with our slotted, then it stays in the rotor area and it goes right on out the back end of the machine. So we believe that this is a problem and I swap all three of these in the red combine. This is a problem and we believe that this is a solution. And I get just a beautiful sample when I cut beans because that MOG stays up here on top where it falls through.

Here's what it looks like in the red combine. These aren't real heavy and there's just two bolts and we V out the opening on the other side because you can't see it and they self-align and they go back in a lot easier. So, two bolts. Yank out the ones from corn. We put in number four, number five. And then, lastly, we put in number six. We used to run two slots and one 3/8. That was too much MOG. And last year, again, I just learned this stuff just last fall, we went to all three of them.

They look a little big, but remember that material's moving at 64 miles an hour coming around there. And so we're relying on centrifugal force, but also we have to have a longer look at the hole at 64 mile an hour in order to give that bean a chance to get low enough here in the chamber that it'll fall out. But the main objective here is to keep the unwanted stuff in the rotor and it goes out there. And we only want to let the beans drop down in here.

And after 55 years, I'm just like, "God, how come I didn't think of this sooner?" The other thing in the red combine we can adjust, these are called transport veins. They're in the arc up there between the nine o'clock and the 12 o'clock position. You loosen up these bolts and you slide the bottom to the left, the top goes to the right and it speeds up or accelerates the speed at which the material is going through the combine. And that also will limit the amount of material that drops down onto that sieve.

Michaela Paukner:

Thanks to Marion Calmer for today's conversation. For a video and transcript of this podcast, go to Many thanks to Sound Agriculture for helping to make this No-Till Podcast series possible. From all of us here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Michaela Paukner. Thanks for listening.