April's Ag Advice by April Borders As we move into the harvest season � we need to STOP and take some time to PREPARE. After dealing with drought stressed crops all summer, we need to take some extra time to ensure a better harvest of these crops.
Because the ears on moisture stressed corn plants will probably be smaller and not filled completely, some adjustments to your combine will be necessary. Pre-season adjustments on the combine are vital, especially in today's economy. To have an efficient and productive harvest, you need to shoot for uniformity. You need to make sure your corn feeds into the combine uniformly, making threshing and grain separation uniform too.
No matter how well you adjust your combine and prepare for harvest, you need to pay attention to adjusting the corn head. Up to 50 percent of the grain damage can happen because of a misadjusted corn head. Two areas to check are the feeding auger and the individual row deck plates. The auger can be a site for potential damage if set too tight where it bites into the corn ear, nicking and scraping a number of kernels. A deck plate set too wide can cause ears to hang up and be damaged by the gathering chains.
The concave/cylinder area is the heart of the combine. We need to have 100 percent of the threshing and 90 percent of the grain separation taking place here. The concave and rasp bars have to be in good shape in order for the combine to run efficiently and to minimize damage to the grain. Check for wear on the concave, especially check for rounding of the concave bars, wear on the concave bar height and center wear.
Soybeans seemed to have faired better than our corn. They might have been stressed early in the season but our late summer moisture should have aided in pod filling. Drought-stressed soybeans may be shorter and a greater portion of the yield will be on the lower section of the stem than on normally developed soybeans.
Cutting as close to the ground as possible will be important to minimize harvest losses. Other mechanical adjustments might need to be made as well. Drive at proper speeds and check concave clearance, cylinder speed, sieves and air velocity. Be sure reel speed and ground travel are synchronized to minimize sickle bar shatter loss. The reel should be placed as close to the cutter bar as feasible. The teeth on the pickup reel may be spread too far apart to gather short plants. To alleviate this problem, either install additional teeth on the reel or place belting material between teeth on the pick up bar.
Remember to also check the front drum on the feederhouse. For soybeans, the drum should be set in the down position to get a pinch-and-pull effect that is more effective in conveying viney plant material.
Four soybeans in a one-foot square area are equal to a one-bushel loss per acre. Harvest losses should be checked in front of the combine, behind the headers, and in back of the combine to pinpoint causes of loss. A convenient means of measuring loss is to stop the combine and back up about 20 feet. Losses are determined in three areas: in the standing soybeans, behind the combine, and 5-10 feet behind the standing soybeans. Total loss � preharvest loss � gathering loss = machine loss.
Whether it is corn or soybeans that you are harvesting it is important to take time to walk your field behind your combine. Check for loss. This gives you the opportunity to make changes when they happen, not when it is too late. Take time to check and set your combine from front to back. Then take time check the head from top to bottom. The best way to pinpoint sources of damage and loss is to conduct in-field observations, followed by in-field tuning. Make only one adjustment at a time and always adjust in small increments. It's easy to miss the optimum setting by making too big of an adjustment.
As always � make adjustments with YOUR SAFETY in mind. Never work under a combine header without securely blocking the lift cylinder. Never unclog your machine or make adjustments while your machine is running.
Have a safe harvest.