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Harvest Tips for Lodged Corn

Ron Meyer, GPA Extension AgnetRon Meyer, Area Extension Agent - Golden Plains Area
Date: 9/15/2011
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With larger than average areas dealing with lodged or downed cornstalks in some Colorado fields due to rootworm issues and/or hail, it’s a good time to review steps to take when faced with harvesting significant areas of lodged corn.

The only way to evaluate whether any harvesting aid or technique is helping is to measure harvest losses. Each 3/4 pound ear on the ground per 436 square feet equals a loss of one bushel per acre.

Tips for machine operation to reduce losses:

  • Set gathering chains for more aggressive operation with points opposite each other and relatively closer together. Adjust deck plates over snapping rolls only slightly wider than cornstalks so that they hold stalks but not so narrow that stalks wedge between the plates.
  • Operate the head as low as practical without picking up rocks or significant amounts of soil.
  • Single-direction harvesting against the grain of leaning stalks may help. Evaluate losses though before spending large amounts of time dead-heading through the field.
  • Limited field research suggests a corn reel may or may not help limit machine losses; however, a reel likely allows greater travel speed and improves productivity. Losses maybe similar comparing harvest at 1 mile per hour without a reel and 3 miles per hour with a reel, but harvest progresses much faster. Spiral cones mounted atop row dividers or the addition of higher dividers on each end of the cornhead are other potential after-market harvest aids.
  • If harvest speeds are significantly reduced, the amount of materials going through the combine is reduced. Fan speed may need to be reduced to avoid blowing kernels out of the combine. Rotor speed may need to be reduced to maintain grain quality. Check kernel losses behind the combine and grain quality to fine tune cleaning and threshing adjustments.

However, as important as anything, get into the correct frame of mind and keep the right mental attitude. Recognize that harvest speeds will be slower. Communicate these expectations with others. Take the time necessary and don’t allow an accident to compound harvest problems.

Source: Mark Hanna, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Iowa State University