April's Ag Advice by April Borders Harvest season will soon be upon us and we need to take the time to make sure that our machinery is ready and adjusted to ensure the most from our harvest. To have an efficient and productive harvest, you need to shoot for uniformity. You need to make sure that your crops feed into the combine uniformly thus making threshing and grain separation uniform too and your harvest will be more efficient and productive.
Let's look at harvesting corn. Preseason adjustments of both the combine and the corn head are essential to a successful harvest season. Up to 50 percent of 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.
Also remember to check the concave and rasp bars. The concave/cylinder area is the heart of the combine because 100 percent of the threshing and 90 percent of the grain separation has to take place here. The concave and rasp bars have to be in good shape in order for the combine to run efficiently and productively as it can and to minimize damage to the harvested grain. Check for wear on the concave, especially check for rounding of the concave bars, wear on the concave bar height and center wear.
Deck plate adjustment is also important. Deck plates set too wide can lead to butt shelling or row shelling, and significant field loss. When set too tight, excessive amounts of trash are stripped from the stalks. As this trash builds up, it can act like a blanket, covering the concave and straw walker. This will cause problems with separation at the concave.
In soybeans, gathering losses occurs at the front of the combine. Gathering losses happen in four areas. We see losses when (1) we lose beans and bean pods that are shattered from the stalk by the cutterbar, reel or cross auger, (2) when beans in pods attached to stalks are cut off and dropped before entering the combine, (3) when beans in pods attached to lodged stalks are not cut and finally (4) when beans in pods are attached to uncut stubble.
Cylinder and separating losses are found on the ground and in pods attached to the straw behind the combine. Cylinder losses are beans in pods that were not threshed by the combine cylinder. Separating losses are loose beans lost out the back of the combine.
Keep your combine in good repair. A cutterbar in poor condition will increase gathering losses. Be sure knife sections and ledger plates are sharp, and that wear plates, hold down clips and guards are properly adjusted. Proper reel speed is also important to reduce pod shattering. Also remember to 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.
If you look behind your combine and look for seed that has fallen to the ground, it only takes four soybeans and two kernels of corn in a one-foot square to equal one bushel per acre loss. Harvest losses should be checked in front of the combine, behind the headers and in back of the combine in order to pinpoint the cause of your loss. Losses are determined in three areas: in the standing crop (pre-harvest loss), behind the combine (total crop loss), and 5-10 feet behind the standing soybeans (gathering loss). The total loss minus the pre-harvest loss minus the gathering loss will tell you your machine loss.
Whether it is corn or soybeans that you are harvesting, it is important to take the time to walk your field behind your combine. Check what your losses are. 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 the time to 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.
Also always remember that your safety comes first. Never work under a combine header without securely blocking the lift cylinder. Also never unclog your machine or make adjustments while your machine is running. Take time to be safe.
For more information on measuring harvest loss, contact the Extension Office at 677-7111.