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Harvesting lodged corn

Dale R. Hicks, University of Minnesota
(revised Sept 1)

We talked about harvesting the wind lodged corn in southwest MN at meetings in Luverne and Adrian and discussed harvesting in one direction and leaving one row unit empty to guide the combine. I have learned a lot about harvesting down corn since then and thought the information might be useful to those with down corn.

After the meetings, Mr. Herald Barton called to tell me about the Corn Shield and how it reduces combine losses. Mr. Barton is a corn grower from Silver Lake, MN. He designed and has tested the Corn Shield for several years and has a lot of experience harvesting lodged corn. I have talked with him and farmers who have used the Corn Shield on their combines. I believe corn growers with lodged corn should consider getting this attachment.

The Corn Shield is two pieces of plastic that are mounted on both outside row snouts of the corn head. It's designed to catch the ears that snap loose from the outside row stalks when those stalks hit the gathering chains. Ears fall inside the combine head rather than over the side, which they normally do. I watched videos of harvesting standing corn and it's surprising to see how frequently the ear pops out of the husk when the stalk hits the combine snout, so the Corn Shield helps to reduce combine losses on standing corn also. And, there are no moving parts on the Corn Shield so one can keep them and install them on their next combine. You can get more information on the Corn Shield at:

field harvesting scheme
Figure 1. Field harvesting scheme (Source: Herald Barton).
Mr. Barton suggests harvesting lodged corn by driving at an angle across the field. I have attached a schematic that Mr. Barton drew showing how to travel across the field. He suggests driving according to the angle the corn is lodged. After opening the field on all sides, make the first pass driving into the lodged corn, come back empty, leave a strip less than the width of the corn head, and make the 2nd pass across the field. The third pass harvests the strip you just left, and continue this pattern. This allows you to harvest in both directions, which is a time saver as compared with harvesting only in one direction. This also uses the width of the corn head as compared with leaving one row unit empty to use to visibly stay on the rows.

In situations where the corn is twisted rather than all plants leaning in a common direction, harvest at an angle, but the angle is not important. Mr. Barton says that a narrow row corn head such as a 22-inch head works best at an angle across the field, but a 30-inch head will also do a good job with angle harvesting. Mr. Barton also suggests having the corn head in good operating condition and speed up the gathering chain and rollers if possible (this reduces plugging).

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