OMAHA, Neb. — Performing pre-harvest maintenance on a corn head to make sure all the parts are running properly can reduce grain loss while harvesting.

“Farmers will spend a week getting their planters ready in the spring, but when it comes time to harvest, they put the corn head on front of the combine and drive right out of the barn straight to the fields,” said Jeff Gray, Claas product coordinator for Lexion combines.

“Making sure your combine is operating as accurately as possible follows right along with the reasons why you’re using variable rate technology on planters and sprayers,” he said.

Farmers can use these following tips to insure their corn head is operating at the optimum level of performance:

Watch Grain Loss Spikes

“When you have spikes in grain loss, you need to do something about it and oftentimes the simplest thing is to slow down,” Gray noted.

“It is well worth the time to make sure the loss monitors are calibrated and working properly,” he said. “There is not a lot of complexity for a loss sensor and most manufacturers use the same type of technology.”

Leaving two to three bushels lying in the field can have a big impact, especially when margins are tight with low commodity prices like this year.

“About 90 percent of the re-growth in the fields is due to operator error,” Gray reported.

Set The Header Speed

This is important to prevent bunching of stalks.

“Set the speed to where you have the stalk coming down all the way before it hits the end of the row unit,” advised Caleb Schleder, AGCO combine marketing manager.

“If you see bunching or pushing, you’ll end up increasing loss and ear bouncing,” he added. “That will hurt the performance of your combine.”

Tip The Corn Head

“The corn head will work more efficiently if it is tipped forward a little bit,” Gray said. “The optimal angle of approach varies on conditions and if you’re using a chopping head or not.”

Tipping the header forward slightly will improve the feeding efficiency and cutting performance while helping to prolong the life of knives.

“That means you’re using more of the knives, rather than just the front of the knives,” Gray said.

Inspect Stalk Roll Knives

“Check the leading edge of the knives and make sure they aren’t too dull,” said Kelly Kravig, Case IH platform marketing manager for combines and heads. “If the tips are too far apart, they won’t pull the stalks down.”

“When you have good, sharp edges to your knives, they will pierce through the stalk better and put less drag on the knives,” Gray added. “It also allows the material to flow better and results in less head loss.”

Evaluate Gathering Chains

“If they’re worn, you need to consider replacing them,” Kravig advised. “I recommend keeping a few chains on hand, so if you break a chain, you can replace it quickly.”

Check Deck Plates

Deck plates should travel freely without any kind of a bind.

“There should be the same amount of travel on every deck plate on every row,” Gray said. “Because they are on the bottom of the head and especially with chopping heads, a lot of residue can build up under there and cause them to get gummed up so make sure they stay clean.”

In challenging conditions when there are smaller stalks mingled in with more robust, healthy stalks, he said, the deck plates may need additional adjustment.

“You might have to pinch the back down about three-eighths of an inch, and that doesn’t interfere with the stalk,” the Claas product coordinator said. “It’s important to not only set for the large healthy ears, but also the smaller ones because you’ve got to get those, too.”

Complete Routine Inspection

“Our dealers have a program where producers can bring their combines into the dealer over the winter months to be inspected, and they receive a list of recommendations for maintenance and repair,” Kravig said. “If that work is done now, next year at harvest season, they’re good to go.”

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

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