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Machinery: Corn Heads

Goal: Cut crop loss at harvest

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Goal: Cut crop loss at harvest

Corn heads are designed to match the harvest capacity of combines while picking the ears and leaving the stalks for processing.

RACINE, Wis. — Corn heads are designed to match the harvest capacity of combines while picking the ears and leaving the stalks for processing.

“With the varieties, corn yields and higher populations, the corn head has to be able to handle higher volumes of material and throughput,” said Kelly Kravig, Case-IH platform marketing manager for combines and heads.

Case IH offers six- to 16-row corn heads and an option of a chopping corn head. In addition, farmers also can choose an eight- or 12-row folding corn head.

“If you’ve got fields that are scattered, with our folding corn heads, you can fold them from inside the cab in less than a minute and unfold it in less than a minute,” Kravig said. “For a lot of producers, that can save a substantial amount of time.”

When the heads are folded, the width of the head is narrower than the width of the combine duals.

“That is a compact and mobile combine header package,” Kravig said.

“We want our corn head to pick cleaner by snapping the ear off the stalk, ensuring the stalk and leaves are pulled down by the stalk rolls and then processed and spread on the ground,” he explained.

“If the corn head doesn’t pick clean, you can bring a lot of corn leaves or portions of the stalk into the combine,” Kravig said. “You can reduce the overall machine capacity and efficiency if you’re bringing a lot of material into the combine.”

The corn heads have point-to-point pinching stalk rolls.

“That brings the stalks down more efficiently and slices the stalk so that it will start to break down faster,” Kravig explained. “Especially with some of today’s corn varieties, stalks don’t break down as efficiently as they use to, so we’ve got to be more aggressive with how we handle the stalk residue.”

The shape of the front divider and hoods, as well as sealing underneath the hoods, improves the amount of corn saved during harvest.

“The rear hoods have patented corn louvers that help funnel ears or loose kernels back into the ear channel of the row unit,” Kravig said. “Loss checks behind our head show up to a 3 percent advantage in grain savings because of how we handle the ears and loose kernels.”

With the gas strut on the hood, one guy can lift the divider which makes it easier to get to the row unit.

“If you need to repair or replace a gathering chain, it’s a simple and quick process to get to it,” Kravig said. “We use a chain removal tool that comes standard with every corn head to quickly remove chains and put them back on.”

Field Tested

“Our 3300 Command Series corn heads are the most extensively field-tested piece of equipment we’ve ever put out,” said Caleb Schleder, AGCO combine marketing manager. “Because of the extensive voice of customer, field testing and engineering behind it, these heads are designed from the power consumption and performance standpoint to work flawlessly with our combines.”

Farmers have the option to select eight- or 12-row AGCO corn heads that are either non-chopping or chopping.

“We made sure that the ratio of power consumption doesn’t pull our combines down so that we are providing the chop quality and not pulling it away from the rotor and the processing,” Schleder stressed. “You can engage and disengage the chopping units with the ease of pushing a lever.

“We built functional architecture into the shielding and design of the snouts,” he noted. “Our dome controls the ear bounce by pushing the ears into the gathering chain or auger to make sure we’re not losing them on the ground.”

The snouts are made with low-density polyethylene.

“When the ear hits the poly, it gives a little and acts as a cushion,” Schleder explained.

“To limit shatter and butt shelling, we pitched our deck plates down at a slight angle,” he said. “That means you don’t have sharp edges that cause an ear to shatter, and now it’s acting as a cradle for the ear to drop down and feed into the combine.”

AGCO corn heads have a 20-inch auger with a 30-degree pitch on the flighting of the auger.

“Since we are more aggressive with the pitch, we’re able to slow the auger down so we don’t feed the combine too aggressively, which causes shatter,” Schleder said.

For the chopping head, a separate gear box that drives the chopping blades is located in the mid back position.

“We make sure the stalk is coming down two-thirds of the way through the stalk rolls and then hitting the blades to chop it,” Schleder said. “If it is too far toward the back, it won’t chop the entire stalk, and if it is too far forward, it cuts the stalk off too early.”

Adding technology to the AGCO headers is simple, Schleder stressed, including both the Reichhardt system and the Headsight sensors.

“You can mount the Reichhardt system on the middle snout, and the whiskers feel the stalks for row sensing,” he said. “Headsight provides ground sensing to read the ground, so you’re not running the header into the ground.”

The AGCO 3200 series corn heads include both six- and 12-row folding heads.

“All the gear boxes are aluminum because the folding mechanism adds weight,” Schleder explained. “The gear boxes are high quality and durable, but lighter because we didn’t want too much weight on the front of the combine.”

Up To 18 Rows

The Claas corn heads range in size from six to 18 rows and in chopping and non-chopping options. In addition, eight- and 12-row folding corn heads are available for farmers to consider.

“Claas chopping corn heads are fitted with a three-blade rotor,” said Jeff Gray, Claas product coordinator for Lexion combines. “The advantage of three-blades is 50 percent more chop per revolution for more chopping performance.”

That means, faster, more efficient breakdown and decomposition of the stalks.

“Then you have a better seed bed the following year, especially if you’re doing no-till or strip-till because you’ll have less trash to deal with and less interference with the row units,” Gray noted.

All Claas corn heads are equipped with hydraulic-controlled deck plates that are controlled from the cab of the combine and the heads have auto contour to follow the terrain of the field.

Farmers can choose to put the optional auto pilot on their Claas corn heads.

“The wands are installed in the center row and they feel their way through the corn field to keep the combine on track,” Gray explained.

“This is a non-GPS system and we use it as a primary, not a backup,” he said. “We try to keep the complexity low so it is easy to set, calibrate and operate.”

Claas row units have a slip clutch and segmented drive shafts.

“There is a drive shaft per row unit which makes replacement very simple,” Gray said. “And they are all chain coupled together, which further aids in removing those if you need to repair them.”

Many Options

Farmers have several sizes of John Deere 600C Series corn heads to select from starting with six-row heads and increasing in size to 18-row heads. In addition to StalkMaster heads, options also include eight- and 12-row folding heads.

“The folding heads are integrated from the cab and it is all on your display,” said Todd VerHeecke, John Deere product marketing representative. “There are no additional boxes added to the cab.”

The John Deere corn heads have three different stalk roll options,

“A customer will choose his stalk roll option depending on what they want to do with tillage,” VerHeecke explained. “Some like to do heavy tillage in the fall, some are no-till and others do light tillage with a shallow vertical tillage tool.”

The fluted stalk rolls leave residue longer than 12 inches.

“Other options include the intermeshing and the opposing,” VerHeecke said.

“The StalkMaster heads have chopping blades that help to size the material smaller for those guys who want to prevent another pass through the field,” he explained.

“The corn heads have hydraulic adjustable deck plates,” VerHeecke said. “So when you have changes it the size of ears, you can adjust for that from the cab, and that is all integrated, as well.”

John Deere customers have the option to add RowSense feelers to their corn heads.

“This helps guide the corn head down the row especially when you have downed corn,” VerHeecke said.

Martha Blum can be reached at 815-223-2558, ext. 117, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Blum.


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