New research combine starting work at UMd.
QUEENSTOWN, Md. — Dr. Nicole Fiorellino, University of Maryland Extension agronomy specialist, is thrilled to have a new research scale rotary combine for harvesting soybean and small grains research plots.
She’s also just as happy to hand over the keys to the technicians on her team, Louis Thorne and Joe Crank, to operate it in the field.
“I sat in the cab, I took a couple pictures and I’m good,” she said with a laugh at the university’s Wye Research and Education Center.
With just over a year on the job, Fiorellino said the new machine — it still has paper on the cab’s floor and that new combine smell — is key to her research goals and the agronomy team’s work.
“It really helps to support all the research efforts related to agronomy,” she said.
The diminutive combine, an Almaco R1, arrived at the Wye in early July, about a year after Fiorellino joined the university faculty.
With her hiring came a “startup package” with funding from the university, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture toward Fiorellino’s programs.
From discussion with retired agronomy specialist Dr. Bob Kratochvil, Dr. Jason Wight, director of the university’s Field and Variety Trials Center and others, she said the consensus was updating their harvesting equipment could best position the agronomy program for the future.
“Bob really had the forethought to put that together and say, ‘You really need this combine,’” Fiorellino said. “I felt like this was the direction we need to go. I feel it shows the University is committed to the success of the program.”
The combine has a header for small grains and soybeans, which was the most versatile with the funding available.
Next, Fiorellino said funding will be needed to purchase a corn head.
Adding a new rotary machine to their grain harvesting equipment should speed up harvest time and attain more accurate yield data as it moves through the plots, Fiorellino said.
As growers have upgraded their equipment over the years, she added one concern they have voiced is the crop loss from the university’s aging research equipment might be effecting results.
“We knew we wanted a rotary combine to be on par with the technology farmers are using,” she said. “I believe it’s the way to go to mimic what the growers are doing.”
Fiorellino said as the university ramps up it’s small grains breeding program, the new machine will aid that expansion, planting more research plots faster with less time between plot planting.
She said she expects the new machine to easily handle all the university’s small grains plots and offset the work done by at least two of the older conventional machines.
They’ll also be better able to harvest comparison strips in farmer’s fields to help in their on-farm research.
“After the first year, I’m hoping we can move through what we have quicker,” Fiorellino said. “Hopefully it’ll bring us more work, in a good way.”
Along with efficiency, Fiorellino said there are also many safety improvements on the new machine. Samples are collected from inside the enclosed cab instead of outside the machine.
“Upgrades like this are always going to put us in a safer working environment. I get very nervous of people walking along side the machine while we’re harvesting,” she said. “I think that’s where you save some time too, not jumping in and out so much.”