There are a lot of tough conditions in the field this fall that farmers are trying to compensate for as they harvest. In this week’s Boots In The Field podcast, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie offers six ways farmers can put more corn in the bin and leave less out in the field.
1. Use harvest attachments to help with downed corn. If you have reels or cones, put them on ahead of harvest, instead of planning to stop and attach them if you run into downed corn, Ferrie advises. “Unfortunately, what happens a lot of times is a grower just tends to slug through a field of downed corn, leaving a lot of corn on the ground, when he's got equipment to prevent that back at the shed,” he says.
2. Pay attention to losses at the head, due to shattering or stripper plate issues, and also the threshing losses through the machine. Take time to check these losses in every field and in some cases, every variety. Usually early on, most of the losses are happening at the threshing part. “As grain gets drier, then we start to pick up more losses at the head,” Ferrie notes. “This may not be true for some of you with the great amounts of variability in your fields from the drought or the replanted areas, but trying to set stripper plates to do a good job all the way across the field may be a challenge.”
3. Check harvest losses in the good areas as well as the bad areas, then adjust accordingly. Having adjustable stripper plates may be a godsend in some of these fields, but it will keep the operator on his toes, he notes. Without adjustable deck plates, operators will have to work with harvest speeds and header speeds to reduce the losses at the head in these areas.
4. Check thrasher losses. Setting the combine with a nice even flow of uniform grain is a lot easier said than done this fall. “With grain flows from 90 bushel to the acre to over 200 bushels an acre in the same pass, as well as wide swings and test weight and grain moisture, this is not going to be an easy task,” Ferrie notes. “I’m assuming most operators know the process for checking yield loss--stopping the combine and backing up to find the header loss, subtracting the header loss from the total loss to get your thrashing loss.” Don't forget, he adds, to check losses in front of the combine to see what's actually on the ground before you got there.
5. Make sure grain-loss sensors are in working order. From there, it’s just a matter of paying attention to them as you go through the field.
6. Check the threshing losses in the tough parts of the field and the good parts of the field. You will find that you have less issues if you can keep the threshing compartment loaded, meaning increasing speed in the lower yielding areas to maintain that flow. When you do this, though, recheck your header losses to see if they have gone up in that same area. Ferrie says his customers’ goal is to try for less than a 2-bushel harvest loss total per acre for corn. Two kernels per square foot equals a 1 bushel per acre loss.
Listen here for Ferrie's full report and harvest recommendations: