It is hard work to grow a corn crop, managing all the variables and inputs that can impact a crop as best you can in order to maximize production on every acre. Given all the work and effort spent in growing this crop, it only makes sense to spend some time making sure the crop gets into the bin. One thing that growers have control over at this time is the ability to fine-tune the combine in order to minimize harvest loss.
When thinking about grain loss, there are two main areas of concern: the head and the cylinder/separator operation inside the machine. Greater loss typically occurs at the head between header ear loss and kernel shelling.
It’s important to understand your header loss number through the season in order to evaluate ROI the following year. While harvesting in the field, stop your combine and disengage the header drive and raise the head while backing up 20 – 30 feet.
The goal is to count two different items:
#1) Header ear loss. To measure header ear loss, mark off eight rows about 22′ long in 30′ rows or 33′ long in 20′ rows. Count the number of ears found; then do the same in standing corn. Each ear that is 14 rows X 32 kernels long represents roughly – bu/acre. Subtract the difference found between standing corn and where you harvested to determine header ear loss.
#2) Header kernel loss. To measure header kernel loss, go to the rows in the middle of the head and carefully remove debris, measure off a 2′ X 2′ area (or have a frame with you) and count the number of kernels found. Repeat this four times over multiple rows. To calculate your head loss in bu/A, take the average of these readings and consider that eight kernels in each 2′ X 2′ section represents approximately one bushel per acre header kernel loss.
If kernel ear loss is high or kernel header loss is high, consider making some adjustments in order to reduce loss. New optionsare available on the market to reduce kernel header loss dramatically.