You can only do so much setup on your combine before you get into the field. Field adjustment on-the-go may be even more critical this year since you're likely to be harvesting wetter-than-normal corn. Sometimes that means things need to be set differently to both put quality corn in the hopper and prevent excessive field losses.
Mark Hanna, an Iowa State University Extension ag engineer, has devoted a good chunk of his career to studying the amount and reasons for harvest loss. It's the same kind of work carried out by the late Sam Parsons when he was an ag engineer at Purdue in the 1980s and 1990s. Parsons would throw a wire rectangle on the ground and ask farmers at field days to find how many kernels were left on the ground.
Hanna says that if you get that far, you're making a huge step toward realizing that harvest losses happen and are important. His mantra is stop, get out and look, and count.
"Unless you take time to stop the combine, look behind the machine across the width of the corn head and count kernels in a few areas, you're not going to realize how much harvest loss can hurt you," he says.
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Hanna notes that only two kernels of corn per square foot can amount to a bushel of corn left behind in the field. And if you find one three-fourths-pound ear in one/one-hundredth of an acre, you can add another bushel of loss per ace left behind in the field.
A good way to check for whole ears is to stop and walk behind the combine. If you're running a 12-row head on 30 inch rows, a checking an area 14-foot deep the width of the head represents one/one-hundredth of an acre.
Kick through the stalks and residue and see if you find any ears, he notes. Then you also want to check in places to see how many kernels are on the ground as well.
Losses add up, even at $3 per bushel corn, he concludes.
For more corn news, corn crop scouting information and corn diseases to watch for, follow Tom Bechman's column, Corn Illustrated Weekly, published every Tuesday.