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September 2013 Archive for Ask an Agronomist

RSS By: Farm Journal Agronomists, Farm Journal

Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at TestPlots@FarmJournal.com, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

How can I harvest down corn?

Sep 27, 2013

Question:  I have some down corn, how do I harvest it?

Answer: That’s a good question, but let’s back up.  I like to tell farmers to establish an A-B-C order for corn harvest so you know which fields you want to harvest first, second, third and so forth. Before you harvest down corn, consider whether you have standing corn that is at risk of going down. If you do, go harvest the standing corn first. Second, as you already know, it is difficult to manage down corn. It could’ve occurred from any number of issues--nutrient problems, poor stalk quality, storms, rootworm problems and not being timely with harvest, to name a few.  There’s not much you can do on the combine to address this.  A corn pick-up reel can help and auger cones might also.  All you can do is set up your combine to get as much of that corn as you can. The other thing you’ll need to think about is what impact that down corn may have next season and be prepared to address it in the spring from a weed-control management standpoint.




Test Tillage Tools With Your Own Tractor

Sep 18, 2013

Something I have been encountering quite a bit lately and want to address is the problem of corn-soybean growers who don’t have sufficient horsepower to run their new tillage tool. What happens is that an equipment retailer will bring the tillage tool and a tractor to run it out to the farm for the grower’s evaluation.  The tool looks great in the field, and the farmer buys it, but when he goes to use it with his own tractor he realizes too late that he doesn’t have adequate horsepower either to pull the tool or to run it at the manufacturer’s recommended speed. So, this is just a friendly reminder that if you’re looking at making an investment in a tillage tool, be sure you try it out on your farm with your own tractor.



How Can I Get My Combine Harvest Ready?

Sep 10, 2013

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.


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