Long PVC Fingers Cheap and Effective Answer to Lodging
Fall rains and ensuing strong winds had done a job on Tim Schmeeckle's south central Nebraska confection sunflower field. Many plants were tipped or flattened, and Schmeeckle knew he'd have to lower his John Deere row-crop header close to ground level to retrieve much seed yield. But that simultaneously meant running a great deal of stalk material through the combine - a prospect the Gothenburg area producer wanted to avoid if at all possible.
Schmeeckle's solution was simple, inexpensive - and very successful. The answer came in the form of six 10-foot lengths of PVC pipe. He used a torch to heat one end of each pipe and bend it back underneath the main length. This "V" would run along the ground between the ridged sunflower rows.
Schmeeckle next removed two of five bolts from the top of each snout on his six-row header. Drilling two holes in the appropriate locations on each of the PVC pipes, he then used longer bolts to fasten the pipes onto the snouts.
The apparatus was ready for the field.
Most of the lodged sunflower plants were laying cross-wise to the rows. Schmeeckle had previously experimented with running the header at ground level, but found that while he was taking in a great deal of stalk material, many of the heads themselves were hanging beneath the header, being cut off - and lost.
"After we got the pipes on, we could raise our combine head back up [to about 3.5 feet above ground level]," Schmeeckle reports. The extended fingers tended to upright the sunflower plants and guide them into the elevated header, where the heads were clipped off and threshed, with the stalks left in the field. "So we were able to turn things around and bring in just the head, not the stalk," he explains. "The fingers provided a long 'ramp' to bring the sunflower heads onto the snouts."
The Nebraskan says the PVC fingers made a huge difference in his yield outcome. Schmeeckle estimates they allowed him to retrieve 50- to 60-percent more heads then he would have had the idea not been adapted. Plus, the stalks stayed where he wanted: in the field and out of the combine. - Don Lilleboe
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