Minnesotans combine soybeans on the diagonal The first time a person sees Herald Barton combining soybeans, he or she might swear Barton has lost his bearings. That's because the Silver Lake, MN, grower cuts his beans at an angle rather than down the rows.

But Barton, who harvests 1,000 acres of soybeans each fall, says combining diagonally makes the job a pleasure.

"It's easy," he says. "I look forward to it, and I couldn't say that if I had to follow the rows."

Barton and his son Barry are in 22" row spacings. Barry runs a second combine, also at an angle. "But the row width doesn't matter," says Barton. "It works on all widths."

The Bartons begin at one corner of a field and move in at a 45 angle. "That's generally the best angle to start," Barton explains. "You can adjust the angle a little if you're knocking down beans."

If there's a wind, drive so it's crossing the combine and blowing away the dust, Barton advises. Also, he says, the dividers on the head need to float an inch or so off the ground so they don't flatten any stalks.

"At the end of each pass, turn around and head right back. That picks up any beans that are leaning," says Barton.

"Combining at night is easier with this system since you don't need to stay right on the row," he adds.

Diagonal combining is also better for the equipment, Barton maintains. "Beans are cut evenly across the full length of the sickle bar, so all sections wear evenly. You don't get that when you cut down the rows and have all that space between rows."

The beans also feed more uniformly into the combine, he says.

A number of Barton's neighbors have also switched to diagonal combining.

Duane and Penny Jaskowiak, also of Silver Lake, combine most of their beans that way. "When you're following rows, it can sometimes be tough to keep all the beans within the header," says Duane. "But with diagonal cutting that's not a problem."

"I would say at least 5% of the growers in my area are doing it," says Pioneer agronomist Jim Boersma, Olivia, MN. "It helps pick up lodged beans."

Jaskowiak points out that if beans are lodged, the combine operator can go in the direction that best draws them in.

Barton believes there's also a slight yield advantage from combining diagonally, but emphasizes that the biggest benefit is reduced operator stress.

He says farmers who have never done it are skeptical.

"They think they'll be running beans down, but it's just the opposite. Once they try it they never go back to combining down the rows.

"If people have questions about combining on the diagonal, they can call me at 320-327-2217," says Barton.