World's fastest soybean farmer
By Doug Rich
Like most soybean farmers, Brent Hajek, Ames, Okla., spends a lot of time going over his fields at 5 miles per hour planting or harvesting crops. But every once in a while he feels the need to put the hammer down.
Like he did the day he set a land speed record in a Ford F-250 crew cab 6.7L power stroke diesel pickup, not once but twice at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011. First he set the B/DT class land speed record by going 169 mph in a truck using standard No. 2 diesel, then he came back and set the U/BD class record, going 182 mph in the same truck using soybean-based B20 biodiesel (13 mph faster on bio-diesel).
That diesel truck has been on tour with Ford, Monsanto, the United Soybean Board, and the National Biodiesel Board since it set the land speed record. Hajek said they estimated that 20 million people have seen that pickup truck. It was the first diesel truck to be invited to be the pace car at NASCAR race but was rejected because it did not have an air conditioner.
Setting the land speed record with that diesel truck was not Hajek’s first experience with alternative-fueled vehicles at the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 2008 he was part of a team that worked with Ford to build a Mustang to run on E-85 and run it at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
“We got out there and they did not have a class for us because it was E-85, so they put us in with nitro methane–powered cars, blown fuel altered,” Hajek said. “We had to compete with nitro methane–powered cars, the most powerful fuel on the planet. That was crazy.”
That Mustang went 252 mph with Danny Thompson at the wheel. Later they built another Mustang powered with E-85, but it also had fenders, hood, and front fascia made from soy-based resins. That car set another record at 255 mph with Thompson driving the car again.
All together they built three Mustangs, a red one, a blue one, and yellow one. Thompson was able to reach 270 mph with the yellow car before it got airborne and crashed.
“It got airborne and at that point became the fastest production car wreck,” Hajek said.
Even after it wrecked going 270 mph, Hajek said the hood and front fascia made out of 100 percent soy resin with carbon fiber were still usable.
“We had to cut the fenders to get it loaded on the trailer but I think we might be able to patch them up,” Hajek said.
When all of the high-profile events are done Hajek still returns to his family’s farm in Oklahoma, where he does in fact grow soybeans. He has been racing cars on drag strips around the country for 35 years but only growing soybeans for about seven years. Hajek said his family had been growing mung beans for nearly 50 years but that crop had two major problems. Mung beans are not Roundup Ready and they are not publicly traded.
“When you got them to town you never knew what you would get for them,” Hajek said.
In 2006 they made the switch to soybeans. Using Roundup Ready seed helped them clean up a problem with sandburs, and he has been amazed at how drought tolerant soybeans can be in western Oklahoma.
“Last year I had dryland soybeans that yielded over 20 bushels an acre,” Hajek said. “They did not get an inch of rain on them from the time we planted until harvest. If they can make 20 bushels in a year like last year they are drought tolerant.”
Hajek plants group III soybeans, which he double crops after his wheat harvest. He plans to cut the double-cropped soybeans in late October.
“If the combine driver slows down too much, the tractor pulling the drill will bump into him,” Hajek said.
Hajek said they started using no-till but ran into soil compaction problems. Traffic from fertilizer spreaders, grains carts and combines caused soil compaction, which made it difficult to have a uniform seedbed. They solved this problem by using vertical tillage ahead of the drill. Hajek uses vertical tillage before planting soybean and before planting wheat.
Hajek is still working with Ford on new uses for soybeans. Ford is coming out with a new car, called C-Max, to compete with the Prius, Hajek said, adding engineers are looking at using soy composite panels for that car. Soy-based resins could also be used in the fender panels, glove box liner, and foam for the seats in the new F-250 pickup trucks. Ford engineers are looking at combining soy resins with wheat straw.
Someone asked Hajek why wheat straw and he said if they had ever tried to unplug a combine during wheat harvest they would understand the strength of wheat straw.
Making a run on E-10 ethanol and then backing it up with wind-generated electricity may be in the future for Hajek and his team.
Sometimes Hajek’s interest in fast cars and soybean farming intersect. Once he was in the tractor planting soybeans and doing a conference call with engineers at Ford at the same time. He had to ask them to take a break because he had to fill the planter. Hajek is always thinking about ways to combine his love of fast cars and new uses for soybeans.
Hajek said when you spend 14 hour days on a tractor going 5.5 mph you have a lot of time to think about stuff.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.