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Steps to a Successful Harvest

00:00AM Oct 06, 2008

Sara Muri, AgWeb Crops Online Editor
After months of sprouting, growing and maturing, it's time to harvest your corn fields. Regardless of if your harvest is in full-swing or still a week away, Mark Hanna, Iowa State University extension agricultural engineer, says making a few adjustments can ensure you have a successful harvest.
Hanna says now is an excellent time to make last-minute adjustments, especially if you're waiting on a field to get a little drier. "Plan on spending a little time on making these adjustments,” he says.

View a pre-harvest checklist courtesy of CLAAS of America Inc.
Your Combine Checklist
Hanna encourages producers to read over their combine's owner operator manual and follow their specific machine's maintenance checklist.
In addition to the maintenance tips provided by your owner's manual, Hanna suggests the following:
  • Make sure the cutter bar sections in the grain platform are sharp. 
  • Check the spacing of the deck plates and adjust for corn ear size. "In a normal year, you use a 1 ¼ spacing for the deck plates,” Hanna says. He suggests looking at your field's ear sizes and if they aren't a normal size, you'll probably need to adjust the deck plates. 
  • Machine-related losses can occur if ear savers become worn or damaged. Hanna suggests checking their condition. "You don't want to see those ears bouncing out,” he says. 
  • Depending on grain size, Hanna says you may need to adjust the fan speed. "You don't want to be blowing grain out of the machine,” he says. "For small seed, you probably need a slower fan speed.”
When making equipment adjustments, Hanna suggests doing one at a time. Then, you can evaluate the changes to make sure your desired results are achieved.
Don't Leave a Crop Trail
"People need to get behind their machines and check the machine loss,” Hanna says.
He says the first place to assess for problems would be the combine's header. "Concentrate on the head,” he says. "Over half of the corn losses are at the head of the machine,” Hanna says.
Even with equipment being in perfect condition, machine loss will occur. The typical goal, Hanna says, is around 1 bu./acre machine loss for corn. "If the crop is standing well, farmers should be able to achieve this.”
Don't Pull the Harvest Trigger Too Soon
Hanna says he knows many farmers are ready to harvest all of their fields as soon as possible. But, he says, the late planting dates and multiple weather challenges have probably pushed back harvest schedules for many.
He encourages farmers to only harvest fields that are actually ready. "You need to get out of the mindset that ‘I'm going to harvest this whole field today,'” he says. "Don't try to force everything through just because it's in the same geographic area.”
More AgWeb Harvesting Information

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