In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
Gonna Be A Tough Harvest For Combines
Aug 05, 2012
Drought corn is miserable to harvest. Here are suggestions to prepare your combine and yourself for the coming challenges:
-Adjust corn head deck plates for thin stalks and small ears. If you have adjustable deck plates, be sure to occasionally fully open and close deck plates to keep them from wearing, corroding and freezing in place.
-If you have automatic corn head height control--be prepared to turn it off under certain conditions. Stalk quality of drought corn is miserable; lodging will be a plague. If stalks are flat on the ground and you try to run your snouts against the ground to lift every stalk, eventually ONE stalk will run underneath a height sensor wand. That will lift the header an inch or two, which allows more stalks to pass under the wand, and suddenly the header is running 2 feet off the ground. In badly lodged corn, it may be best to turn off the header height control and run it manually. Not fun, but necessary, if you want to run the snouts tight against the ground and salvage every ear.
-If you're running the snouts tight against the ground, make sure the snout tips are several inches, maybe a foot, lower than the front ends of the gathering chains. If the snouts run "level" with the front ends of the gathering chains, it's easier to pick up rocks.
-Be certain all threshing components-rasp bars, concaves, threshing lobes, etc.--are in good shape and spaced/proportioned to specs. Drought corn can be bone dry, or it can be rubbery due to premature stalk failure. Either way, the combine's threshing components need to be able to either barely tickle the kernels off the ears, or grind them off, as conditions warrant.
-Stalk quality, grain yield, ear size and ear height are going to be incredibly variable within the same field, heck, within the same pass through that field. It won't be practical to change concave setting, rotor/cylinder speed and other combine adjustments to match every change in crop condition within a single pass of a half mile long row. At best, combines will have to be pre-set for the "average" stalk size, ear size and other characteristics, then the operator will have to use ground speed to compensate for crop variability.
It's not going to be fun to run a combine this harvest. This year will separate combine "drivers" from combine "operators."
See Dan's tips in AgDay's "Machinery Minute":