Question: Can you recommend any common combine adjustment, something that maybe a lot of farmers overlook, that would improve my harvest results?
Answer: That's a really good question. We estimate that corn growers lose between 3% and 5% of their yields each year, because they don’t prepare their combine for harvest. My short answer is look at your owner's manual and then addresss header losses. In all seriousness, many of the adjustments you need to make are provided throughout the pages of your owner’s manual in simple language and easy-to-understand diagrams. I’d really encourage you to look it over. The other thing I tell farmers is to focus their attention on the combine header. Header loss accounts for up to 90% of farmers’ total harvest losses. The reasons: Farmers are increasing the size of combines they run but don’t match a corresponding-sized header to them. Second, farmers will often overdrive the header, which causes the corn ears to be pulled off late and lose kernels. Instead, you want to pull those ears two-thirds of the way up the stripper plates. Third, adjusting to a faster header speed can be hard on a header that’s not made to run at higher speeds. I find that a lot of guys want to use an eight-row header because it’s easier to get up and down the road and move around, but they want a bigger machine with more capacity to go with it. The problem is we end up driving faster, and the faster you drive the more ear loss and kernel loss go up. In the process of making the header run faster than it’s designed, you sometimes cause other components in the head to move too fast, such as the gathering chains or cross auger. If those are moving too fast, then you can get more grain damage or even flip ears out of the header. There are components on the after-market to let you slow down other portions of the header in order to do a good job at these higher ground speeds farmers are running today. I could go on with other suggestions, but if you do these two things—review your manual and work on header loss—you’ll have a much-improved harvest this season.