Plot harvest at the NCRS has been a challenge this year. Wet weather has kept the harvest crews out of the field for extended times. But the field crop crew has been putting in long days through the weekend. I went out last Thursday to see what was going on. Over on Farm 5, Phil unloads soybeans from a plot into the scaled grain cart.
Stephanie watches the weight numbers roll up.
Then she punches the weight into the mounted iPad. It is linked to the computer in the NCRS office and records the number in the program, so that when the harvest for the test is complete, the data is already summarized. That is something new this year that will make data summary much easier. Good thing since there are over 1800 individual field crop plots set for harvest in 2014. (By the way, that's MSU intern Kalvin driving the tractor. Although I guess his internship is over, so now he is just a regular NCRS researcher. We are very fortunate that Kalvin was willing to continue working this fall around his busy MSU class schedule.)
Over on the Specialty Crop Crew, Jake and Brian have borrowed a grape press from Kalvin, and go to work making juice from the Concord Grape plot harvest. I tried it. It's good!
Now the beet lifter lifts the beets out of the ground. Why else would it be called a lifter? The beets are dumped into the tank and there is a scale and monitor that reads the weight for that plot. Still remarkable compared to the old ways and days when I actually worked there. Yes it's an old lifter, but it works just fine for these plots. That's Jeff at the helm of the tractor there. And Ron on the dump trailer tractor in the back.
Determining the plot weight is just the first step with sugarbeet harvest. Beets need to be graded for per cent sucrose plus several other quality measurements. This is how the payment to growers is determined, and these can be affected by fertilizer inputs. So plot samples need to be collected. Here Tim collects some beets from the back door installed on the lifter tank. These will be taken to the Michigan Sugar Company lab for evaluation. The beets are then unloaded into the trailer there and then dumped in a row along the road for collection to be taken to a sugarbeet piling ground for transport to the sugar company plant. Tim also punches the weights into the iPad here too.
After all of that, the lifter moves on to the next plot.
Round and round they go. That's the way all of the field plots are harvested here at the NCRS. You are usually too busy to get dizzy though.