Ah yes! The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Clinton County Corn Festival are upon us once again. Mother Nature even looks like she wants a great weekend as we have finally gotten some relief from the hottest weak of summer weather this year.
I really appreciate the Corn Festival in that it gives us a reality in farm history. It is amazing we fed the world (at the time) with such equipment. Today, the size and scope of agriculture is so much bigger in all phases. Not just equipment size.
It is hard to believe that when growing up in our family operation, my father and grandfather farmed 1,000 acres spread over 30 miles from the farthest points between farms with nothing more than a couple of JD 4020’s, a JD50 and a JD70, six row planter and a JD 4400 combine. We had one farm due to distance that when we moved there to plant, the equipment stayed until it was planted.
It took a whole day just to move tillage and planting equipment before we could even get started. As one would guess this was usually the last farm planted each year. In a rainy season like we had here this year, our equipment stayed on that farm for several days.
From fall plowing until fall harvest the next year, our fields were gone over with equipment as many as five times. “Wow!” Is all I can say. I sometimes look back and wonder how we got it all done each year.
Whether you are from the farm or not, or you can’t remember that long ago, at least take time while at the Corn Festival to look at the equipment and respect our farming community for what they represent. Oh by the way, enjoy the food too, but remember where it all started. Remember that over the years, without farmers do you really know where your next meal would have come from? Think about it!
After the Corn Festival, I believe soybean harvest will begin locally as a few fields are not far from being ready. Reports are that Darke County has had several early fields harvested and yields have been close to and above the 50 bushel per acre range.
Before harvest gets here you might want to consider a few simple combine adjustments that can help to prevent grain damage and harvest loss.
John Fulton, Department of Food, Agriculture and Biological Engineering, suggests there are two areas of focus for combine operators in 2015. One is ground speed and the other combine header settings to keep crop loss to a minimum. As a combine operator, material fed incorrectly into the header significantly impacts grain quality and loss.
• Four soybean seeds per square foot equates to a 1-bu/ac loss. Acceptable harvest loss is 3 percent or less (approx. 1-2 bu/ac) in soybeans but improperly adjusted combines or an operator not paying attention to details can generate errors of 10 percent or higher, and don’t forget that — 80 percent of harvest loss occurs at the header.
Fulton reminds producers: Checking harvest loss will be important to keep the combine adjusted properly, especially in short and variable soybeans. Total harvest loss can occur in three areas: 1) pre-harvest soybeans, 2) header and 3) combine. One should check these three areas within different locations in a field.
One of the first items for the season is to review the owner’s manual and/or consult your local combine dealer for help on proper combine settings specific to the crop and harvest conditions. The following provides a few suggestions on adjustments and operation factors in variable and short soybeans:
• A floating, flexible cutterbar and automatic header height control can improve the ability to maintain the header low and level to the ground during harvest.
• Take time and slow the combine down. Slowing up 0.5 to 1.0 mph in areas where harvest loss might be risky.
• Keep the cutter bar as low as possible for short soybeans and those that are dry. This point is important in areas with low plant populations and where more pods are on the lower portion of the plant, nearest the ground.
• Shorter soybeans require smaller clearances between the reel, cutter bar, auger and the feed conveyor chain, to ensure stems are feeding through the platform and into the feeder house.
• Check knives, guards, ledger plates and wear plates.
• Ensure the sickle is sharp.
• Make sure to properly adjust guards and header to proper engagement angle as outlined in the operator’s manual.
• Check that stems are being cleanly cut across the header. If not, check for dull blades, improperly set header angle, other incorrect header settings, or reduce your ground speed.
• Keep an eye on reel speed and adjust to match soybean conditions and ground speed within the field. The rule of thumb is to keep reel speed about 25 percent faster than ground speed.
• Make sure the feeder house relative to the header is at the proper adjustment to keep material feed as efficient as possible.
• Importantly, make sure chains and bearings are properly lubricated and serviced on their stated time intervals. Belts should be tight and checked routinely.
Tony Nye is the state coordinator for Small Farm Programs and an OSU Extension educator, agriculture and natural resources, for Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.