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Our 20-inch corn head quest comes to an end

bernardbodo/iStock/GettyImagesPlus Machines harvesting corn on a sunny field.
After a long search we found the combine attachment needed for narrow row corn harvest.

When we were deciding to plant 20-inch row corn in June, we did a quick search of online listings to find out how hard it was going to be to find a head to pick the corn. It really didn’t seem that hard at the time. In actuality, it was much more difficult.

Our first choice would have been to rent a head for the 300 acres we ended up planting in 20-inch rows. One of the local dealer’s branches had one and we thought we were going to get together and use it this fall.

The risk of renting one is a sale; If there is an opportunity to sell the item, the renter is generally out of luck. In August, someone came and purchased the head. That put us back on the search.

Early in our search, there was a suitable head on one of the auction sites. We were a little hesitant and let that one go. We should have been a little more aggressive, but at that time, the rental was still in the picture. We searched every day or two watching for new listings. Several heads came and went, but none really excited us.

What should this cost?

After searching so long, we had figured out the value range for these heads. One Saturday morning a new listing popped up. That was the one. It was priced reasonably. But the head was located in Minnesota, and we weren’t going to make a 600 mile trip to look at it. We had to trust what the dealer was telling us. How many of you have done this? After seeing the 54 pictures online, we went ahead and made the purchase.

About two weeks later it arrived. Visually it was as expected. We put it up on the combine and went to work.

Now, usually, when we purchase anything, we give it a complete inspection and full maintenance. The head knives were good, the poly was okay; we changed a couple of chains (preventative measure), checked and added oils/grease, etc.

Everything was good until we got to the deck plates. They were frozen and wouldn’t move.

We went to work with an air hose, scraper, and some lubricants. It was a longer process than we had hoped it would be. All said and done, it took two men three days to prep the head. We got nearly everything working and a service call from the dealer finished up some odds and ends.

All in all, it was another good online purchasing experience even though we had a little more elbow grease in it than we had hoped. Hopefully all goes well as we plan to put the head in service yet this week!

Deck plates explained

For those of you wondering, the function of the deck plates is to allow the ear to be picked cleanly. If the deck plates are too wide, then the kernels get popped off the ear and lost on the ground as the stalk rolls pull the plant down through the head. If the deck plate is too narrow, the corn stalk gets broken off and pulled through the combine, where it slows down harvest and risks corn kernels to ride out the back of the combine with the ‘trash’.

Deck plates on all newer corn heads are adjustable from the combine cab. One company even has a self-adjusting deck plate.

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