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Harvesting Best Practices

Tuesday, August 27, 2019
filed under: Harvest/Storage

       As sunflower harvest approaches, Brandy Edland knows his phone is about to start ringing — and it won’t stop until the harvest is complete.  Edland is the lead Sunmaster specialist at Sheyenne Tooling & Mfg., based in Cooperstown, N.D.
       “The calls I get in the fall are not good calls,” Edland explained during a breakout session at the 2019 NSA Summer Seminar held in Medora in June.  “Farmers don’t call me when crop conditions are ideal. But despite the conditions, they need to get the crop harvested and get the most sunflower in the bin that we can.”
       Edland is in his seventh year with the company, and his seventh year specializing in sunflower. 
       “I had never been around sunflower before I started working at Sunmaster. The [crop] intrigued me. Sunflower is the devil to some, because I think they only hear about the bad things, not the good things about the crop.  When I talk to producers who have been growing sunflower for a long time, they always tell me they’re a reliable, profitable crop.  We want to help make the harvest part of the crop easier for producers, because that’s the part farmers tell us they struggle with.  Our goal is to make harvest as easy as possible.”
       To do that, Edland spends most of his time on the road, in the fields, and with customers. 
       “From the time the combines fire up until the last row is harvested, we are out there spending time with producers,” said Edland.  “Generally, when I get to a field, producers are having a problem. They are upset, their sunflower is laying down or something is going wrong.  We help them fix the issue; and by helping them, it helps us advance the technology of our headers.”
       Sheyenne Tooling & Mfg, has been manufacturing Sunmaster sunflower headers since 2005.  Edland explained that the header’s unique design minimizes shattering and head losses that are common with traditional harvesting equipment, and works great to harvest sunflower that is lodged, broken over or excessively dry. 
       “Downed ’flowers are the biggest call I get every year.  Our header is designed for downed ’flowers,” said Edland.  “When guys are harvesting downed sunflower, there is so much left behind in the field.  I think our headers can pick up probably an extra 30% of those downed ’flowers. That’s a pretty big deal.”
       Edland added that their header isn’t a magic wand.  Still, he says a Sunmaster can be a game changer for producers.  
       Aside from downed ’flowers, shatter loss is another common call he gets. 
       “It’s fairly common walk into a sunflower field after harvest and see [seeds] on the field; but I think a lot of guys don’t realize the amount of shatter loss there really is and the impact it has on your profit,” he said.  “If you have 200 acres, it’s not as big of an issue as if you have 10,000 acres of sunflower to harvest; but shatter loss can become a huge issue if you have that much to harvest.  We have done a lot of work to prevent shatter loss. We’ll never eliminate it completely, but we can get it lower than the six to 10% we see in most fields.”
       Edland said timing, harvest speed, high winds, header height and header choice are all factors that impact shatter loss. 
       “Every year I see speed records set during sunflower harvest.  It’s always a rush to get them off the field,” said Edland. “But speed is one of your biggest killers on shatter loss.  If we slow things down just a little, you can reduce the shatter loss.  Of course, we can’t control the wind; but we can control header height. I always thought leaving more stalk not only helps hold snow and traps moisture for the next year; it also lowers your risk of shatter loss.  But we are seeing guys cutting lower and lower each year. 
       “Leave that header height higher and you’ll see a difference in shatter loss.”
       “Header choice can also prevent shatter loss in most conditions.  There are a few different options when it comes to headers, but if you’re going to invest the money and the time into growing sunflower, it just makes sense to invest money into a header made for sunflower. It will pay dividends.”
— Jody Kerzman
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