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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

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.

The Risks Of Harvesting Frost

Oct 27, 2013

 This year's delayed harvest across the Corn Belt is tempting many farmers to combine frost-covered corn early in the morning. Don't do it. I've already dug out/unplugged two combines that had their sieves plugged as a consequence of harvesting frosty corn.

Yes, everything is hunky-dory and works great right after dawn, when the frost is "crisp" and the combine's innards are at ambient temperature. But as the sun comes out and the frost begins to melt, or the combine's innards warm up above freezing, the mixture of watery mist and corn dust passing through the sieves creates a pasty sludge that builds up and eventually plugs the combine. Big-time. 

The only cure for a frost-plugged combine is to either crawl inside and manually scrape clean the louvers on the sieves, use a pressure washer to (hopefully) blow the stuff off the sieves, or in extreme cases, unbolt and remove the entire sieve so it can be pressure-washed.

The same problem will occur if harvest continues to drag and we get snow on unharvested cornfields. Even worse is if we get snowfall, then a couple days of unrelenting below-freezing weather. Those who try to harvest corn with snow on the ears and subsequently freeze-up their sieves with icy mud have only two choices: find a heated shop where they can park the machine and let it thaw out, or wait until the weather warms up enough to thaw the machine "naturally."

And--if you're in an area where corn is severely lodged due to wind damage earlier this year, be cautious when running your cornhead's snouts low in an attempt to pick up every stalk possible--especially if the ground is muddy and soft. Many times the root ball of lodged stalks gets pulled into the machine. Combines are not designed to process wet dirt. If the auger trough on your corn head is lined with hardened mud after harvesting a field of badly lodged corn, take time to check your sieves--I've had cases where I had to crawl inside and chip layers of hardened mud off the upper sieves and shaker pans. 

The farmers were really impressed how much better their combines worked, after there was enough room in the sieves for grain to fall through...

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