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Tackling down corn — at 1 mph!

Kyle Stackhouse 110521stackhouse flexxifinger attachment.jpg
We installed these “FlexxiFloat” crop lifters to help lift and harvest down corn, although it means moving at ultra-slow speeds through the field.
Using a new combine attachment we were able to recover 65-85% of the crop.

As we wait for the 150 acres to the east to dry out and be fit for harvest, we have finally started on the farm where corn went down in that summer storm. Earlier this fall the decision was made to suspend harvest on that farm and go harvest other fields that may still be at risk of falling down.

Before we left that farm, we were able to make some test runs to determine what might work. The short answer is nothing we had was going to work. There wasn’t enough standing corn to push the down corn into the corn head, but there was enough standing corn that those plants would wrap on the corn reel if we tried to use it.

A couple years ago, we had tried using the draper head (normally used for small grains and soybeans). It didn’t work as we couldn’t get the stalks picked up enough to bring the ears onto the platform. We had to find something else.

Another option

Dad did some research and found an attachment for the draper from Flexxifinger. They sell a ‘crop lifter’ that raises the crop up high enough so that it is brought into the header when the stalk is cut. The heavy duty model can be used for corn. After dad talked to a grower from Kentucky who has used them for corn, we installed them on one of the drapers during this latest rain delay. The installation was pretty simple and they have a quick detach design where, after the initial install, you can snap them on or off in a matter of minutes.

The question was, after spending another $5,000 - $7,000, would it work? Well, we are harvesting the field now -- at 1 mph. That is not a typo. I’m sure it is testing dad’s patience. I rode for a little while when he was starting as we were determining the best way to set the head.

No matter what, the wildlife will eat well this winter. My estimate from the combine platform is we were able to recover 65% - 85% of the crop. It may be better than that, but it is painful seeing golden ears laying on the ground after harvest. Still, it’s better than trying to force it though the corn head and ending up driving over most of it.

We met with a representative from the seed corn company last week. They have been good about following up since our initial complaint in August. They have put a drone up at least twice (in addition to our flight). We will have some solid yield difference data soon. Besides not being able to pick up all the harvestable ears, reduced ear sizes also resulted from the trauma of the plant being blown over so far. And let’s not forget increased harvest expenses of additional fuel consumption, combine and operator hours, as well as wear and tear on the machine from forcing all that corn residue though the combine. (Normally, the ear and a little bit of the plant go into the combine, most of the residue is pulled down though the corn head and doesn’t have to be processed by the combine. That is why the speed is 1mph.)

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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