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Enter the Dragon

Give Dennis Bollig a few seconds, and you'll soon learn why he thinks the Italian-made Olimac Drago is the best corn head in the world. Give him a few minutes, and you might become a believer too.

The name “Drago” stands for dragon. Made by the Italian company Olimac, it is among the top-selling corn heads in Western Europe. Friends from Horsch Anderson Company introduced Bollig to Olimac in 2001. After meeting some European farmers who used the head, he bought one and shipped it home to Iowa on the promise that it would allow him to chop stalks as he harvested, cutting his time spent in the field.

Bollig soon realized that the Drago had a lot more going for it than just being a good cutter head. Ear bounce was virtually eliminated. There was less shelling loss. It picked up down corn better than anything he'd ever seen. And the head was easier to operate.

It wasn't much later that Bollig and his wife Darlene started Dragotec U.S.A., a business that imports and services the Drago heads for Midwest farmers. Last summer, their company sold several heads in Iowa and Minnesota. The year's orders are up 400%.

Automatic deck plates

“One of the key features on the Drago corn head is its automatic deck plate settings,” Bollig explains. “The old conventional deck plates had to be manipulated with a wrench to adjust them in and out. Modern hydraulic systems are a huge improvement, allowing the operator to adjust from the cab. But the downside of hydraulic adjustment is that the operator still must make a decision on how wide to set that gap. As the day gets long and it gets dark, people get tired and tend to set the plates too wide.”

On the Drago, each row has a spring-loaded system that opens and closes based on individual stalk size. No electronic sensors are involved. Yet, as you go through the field, you can watch how the plate gap opens and closes to match the size of each stalk.

“At first, I couldn't understand how a corn stalk could spread this thing,” Bollig says. “But the chains are designed like a dragon's claw, so the stalk is powered into the deck plate.”

Two years ago Bollig had an extreme test of how the chains and deck plates work together. “We had side hills that damped off early in the spring, so we had about one-third of a stand in some areas. The remaining individual plants were huge. As we harvested, we could actually see the deck plates pop right open to take in those monster plants.

“Then we'd go over the hill to a sandy area where a full stand on droughty soil had resulted in smaller plants. The deck plates adjusted perfectly to those narrow stalks.”

Bollig points out that the overlapping claws on the gathering chains also are an advantage for picking up down corn. A deck angle of just 17∞ makes the head effective in picking up down corn as well.

Long knife rollers

The Drago's ear bounce and shelling are less than those of other heads primarily because its knife rollers are about 50% longer than those of competitors. “Remember that a short roller must run fast to keep up with ground speed,” Bollig says. “Those high speeds often slam ears against the deck where they can bounce out or lose kernels to shelling.”

The Drago knife roller does a precut, crushing action and feeds the stalk down to the higher-speed rotary blades of the chopping system. The power is not put to the plant until after the ear is gently removed.

Optional chopping system

The Drago works as a conventional head or a chopper head. For chopping, a heavy-duty cast-iron gearbox bolts on the bottom of the main gearbox. It can be added or removed via four bolts.

Bollig says he believes chopping systems will become increasingly popular as more farmers go to a corn-on-corn rotation. “Government programs are encouraging continuous corn. If you had planted corn four years in a row, you could have almost doubled your government payments over a standard corn-bean rotation,” he says. “But that's not the only reason to do it. Corn adds more organic matter and tilth to the soil than soybeans. Plus, ethanol is increasing the market for corn, and Brazil is getting more competitive on soybeans.”

The downside of continuous corn is disease spores from the corn residue. Bollig says “sizing” or chopping up corn stalks and spreading them evenly helps that residue break down faster, thereby reducing disease problems.

Although not everyone has bought into Bollig's ideas on rotation, he is getting enough takers on the Drago to keep him busy. “So far we've sold more Dragos without choppers simply because it is a superior head at a competitive price,” he says. “Olimac is the only corn head manufacturer to be certified by TUV of Europe, so it meets the same quality standards as Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes. That's why in Europe, the Drago is considered the Ferrari of corn heads. And although it does look racy, it is adaptable to any combine in the world.”

Prices range from $33,700 for a six-row head without chopper option, to $81,600 for a 12-row head with choppers. For more information, contact Dragotec U.S.A., 3701 30th Ave., Fenton, IA 50539, 712/260-4157, visit

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