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What does the phrase "gathering loss" mean and how does it apply to a corn crop?
Answered by Nate Schlief, Grand Forks County Farm Bureau
One challenge that every grain farmer has is to be sure and set their combine to get the opportunity to harvest as much of the crop standing in the field as possible.
There are two types of loss for corn harvest. Pre-harvest loss and during harvest.
Gathering loss refers to the losses that occur during harvest with the combine. There are two main reasons for this: 1) Header losses while removing the cob from the stalk and 2) losses in the process of separation the kernels from the cob.
When the combine moves through the field, if the header is not set correctly it can lose cobs by dropping them off the stalk and not going into the machine for the kernels to be removed from the cob. How this happens: each corn row on header has a set of rollers that strip the cob from the stalk and then move into the header, and into the combine. If the stripper rolls are set too wide apart, small cobs can go through and end up on the ground and those cobs are lost from the harvest. Also, kernels can shell off the cob during the process of removing the cob especially if the corn moisture content is dry or the header is running too fast. Most corn now is harvested at about 20 % moisture in order to minimize the kernels being shelled out in the header and dropping the grain on the ground. If the stalks are down in the field prior to harvest, it can be hard to pick up these stalks and get them to feed into the header as well. This can cause gathering loss as well.
Second, once the cob is brought into the cylinder, the process of removing the kernels from the cob starts. If the cylinder width is set to high, cobs can go through the combine without the kernels being removed the cob. The cob is then cut up and distributed behind the combine with the rest of the stalk material to be worked into the ground. Once the kernels are removed from the cob, the stalk material and the cob have to be separated inside the combine by a fan and cylinder which takes the lighter material and moves it back. Because the kernels are heavier, they move to the auger bed to go up into the grain tank. If the kernels are light in some instances, the fan can blow them up with the rest of the stalk material and it gets distributed behind the combine.
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