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5 big things to consider with late-running harvest

Agriculture.com Staff 10/30/2009 @ 1:17pm

As the calendar unfolds into November, the key considerations for a now very late harvest are starting to change. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go about harvesting and storing that grain that's still standing in the field.

Frost damaged corn presents its own unique challenges when it comes time to get it combined. And the hard freeze that many parts of the upper Midwest experienced the second week in October not only stopped grain from maturing but also prevents it from drying down in the field.

Corn that has not dried early in the harvest period often stops at 17% to 18% moisture, observes Charles Hurburgh, at Iowa State University. "In 2008, this was in the 20% to 22% range."

Here are some quick pointers to getting frost damaged corn out of the field:

  • Wet kernels are harder to thresh from the wetter-than-normal cobs. To boost shelling efficiency, boost cylinder or rotor speeds and tighten concave spacings. High threshing speeds is the main culprit causing kernel damage and cob breakup, which can also lead to poor separation, and excess loading on the combine's cleaning shoe. So it is best to keep threshing cylinder or rotor speed as low as possible, or as low as recommended for the particular combine make and model.
  • Start by reducing concave clearance. If this does not achieve satisfactory threshing, then begin to increase cylinder speed as required. Follow this same adjustment sequence even if corn is below 30% moisture. And, if field-drying continues, remember to "back-off" cylinder speed as much as possible as the harvest season progresses.
  • Also stay on top of adjusting the cleaning shoe to accommodate wetter-than-normal grain. Chaffers, sieves and the cleaning fan will also need to be adjusted, sometimes on a daily basis, to for good cleaning results.
  • Late-planted and under-developed corn often has smaller ears and narrower stalks. As such you need to adjust the corn head to accommodate these conditions. For example, check the spacing on deck plates to suit smaller diameters stalks. The spacing between stripper plates should always be slightly wider at the back (about 1/4 inch).
  • Adjust the speed of snapping rolls and gathering chains to combine ground speed. Don't be tempted to run the combine faster than normal (due to reduced yield level) or slower than normal (due to excessive lodging) without appropriate speed changes to the corn head drive shaft.
  • The feeder housing conveyor may also need adjustment to handle smaller ears. Such settings, however, can lead to plugging problems when normal-size stalks and ears are encountered -- a dilemma in fields where the crop condition is extremely variable.

More details are harvesting, drying, and storing frost-damaged corn as well as soybeans can be found here.

As the calendar unfolds into November, the key considerations for a now very late harvest are starting to change. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go about harvesting and storing that grain that's still standing in the field.

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