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Reducing harvest losses with proper combine settings in lodged corn

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Dave Nicolai
Regional Extension Educator-crops, Hutchinson, MN

Preharvest loss
Additional ear droppage can be caused by deteriorating stalk and ear shank strength. Harvesting at higher moisture content may be beneficial to reduce loss. The disadvantage is the higher drying costs which can be a major factor because of high LP cost.

Header ear loss
The key to reducing header ear loss in down corn is to get the snouts under the down corn to lift the corn stalks up.


  • Snouts should be adjusted to have the tip as low to the ground as possible.
  • The angle of the snout relative to the ground should be at a minimum.
  • Driving at a ground speed that is too fast or too slow, driving off the row or operating the header too high may result in lost whole or broken ears.
  • Harvest the corn one way and in the opposite direction the corn lodge to allow the snouts to get under and lift the corn stalk.

Header kernel loss
Snapping bars and snapping rolls may need to be adjusted slightly closer to aggressively pull through weaker than normal stalks due to lodging.

Combine cylinder loss
Correct cylinder or rotor speed and correct concave clearance adjustment may need adjustment due to excessive material (broken stalks and leaves) being passed through the combine. Correct adjustment results in few or no broken cobs with no kernels attached to them. Too vigorous shelling action results in excessive kernel breakage.

Combine separation loss
With extra stalks and leaves passing over the straw walkers the operating speed of the combine will have to be reduced to allow adequate time for the corn kernels to be separated from the trash. Also correct sieve and wind adjustment must be maintained.

Consider a Corn Shield
Dale Hicks, University of Minnesota extension agronomist, also advises farmers to plan ahead before harvesting lodged corn. He says farmers may want to consider purchasing a corn head attachment, called the Corn Shield, which helps to stop ear loss along the corn head's outside rows. The Corn Shield also allows farmers to harvest fields at an angle to reduce harvest losses. Other kinds of equipment changes may also reduce harvest losses.


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