Farmers and equipment experts gathered in Iola, Kansas at PrairieLand Partner’s soybean and corn research plot to see new farm implements and machinery in action, as well as gain inside information for upcoming harvests and planting.

While green equipment was the theme of the day, the John Deere experts shared a wealth of yield-bumping information for new, old, red and blue equipment alike.

The timeliest of which, can be applied before and during this year’s corn harvest.

Optimize Combine Settings and Cleanliness

It doesn’t take any kind of expert to rationalize the fact that a clean combine creates a smooth harvest environment, but for the sake of the rest of the advice given, it is a critical component to note. The experts at PrairieLand advised that the best way to make any of the adjustments they suggested is to evaluate the combine after a test-pass for loose corn kernels, or ears, dust etc. And, the only way to accurately read those telltale signs is if the combine is clean in the beginning.

After a quick cleanliness check and a test pass to check the initial settings, if the perfect speed feel elusive, the experts have a solution. “An old custom cutter years ago taught me this and it’s been cool through the years to watch just how well it works,” the PrairieLand expert said. “If we take our miles per hour of our combine harvesting speed, multiplied by 100 plus 50. So if we were moving at five and a half miles per hour, the best operating efficiency of our corn header would be around 600 rotations per minute.”

Avoid Ear Drop

Avoiding left-behind ears not only helps recapture a small percentage of lost yield, it also can prevent issues increased by volunteer corn the following season. A few simple adjustments can save a lot of ear-drop related yield loss.

“When I have a snap roll that looks like big notches are worn out of it and what do you think happens?” he said. “We start to bring that crop in and then we aren’t pulling it out of the way and processing it as fast as we can. And so we go forward with all of that population coming in and we have a tendency, then, for stalks to sit there and rub each other.”

Normally, that rubbing will occur ahead of the back plat or row, where it’s going to capture most of the ears or the gathering chain can’t get it. The result is that wearability and maintenance of stalk rolls is crucial to ear drop.

If, upon inspection against a straight edge, the stalk roll of a combine has more than 0.8 inches of wear, the experts recommend a replacement.

Adjusting gathering chain timing is another great way to prevent ear drop, whether keeping the staggered settings from the factory or switching to opposing settings.

“When we go to opposing, the lugs are lined up beside each other and that gives the ear a chance to drop down and get to the auger,” he said. “When we have them staggered, you can often see the ear dance across the top of the row unit or there’s a plant missing from the end of the row we pull out and they just disappear from us.”

Additionally, poor gathering chain timing can need compensation by increasing the header speeds to keep up with the harvest speeds, which can throw those ratios out of balance.

Combines are as complex as jet planes these days and the way to update or improve their efficiency is nearly endless with a little patience. For more ways to improve 2021 harvest, contact your local dealer or equipment guru.

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