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Though rain and wet fields prevented farmers from seeing the unique "Cornrower" head in operation, many took a close look at the invention last week at a field day in De Forest sponsored by Landmark Services Cooperative.

Though rain and wet fields prevented farmers from seeing the unique "Cornrower" head in operation, many took a close look at the invention last week at a field day in De Forest sponsored by Landmark Services Cooperative. Photo By Jan Shepel

Windrowing corn head first step in harvesting stover

Oct. 24, 2012 | 0 comments




Getting more palatable cattle feed from corn fields may be as simple as windrowing the fodder after corn harvest and then treating it with lime before storing it.

More than 150 farmers who wanted to learn about the possibilities of using excess corn fodder or stover as a cattle feed attended a workshop at Manthe Grain Farms east of De Forest last week sponsored by Landmark Service Cooperative.

They heard from Jim Straeter, a full-time New Holland machinery dealer and part-time inventor who talked about the corn head attachment he designed to shell the corn while also placing the fodder, husks and cobs from the corn crop in a perfect windrow so it can be harvested easily.

The resulting windrow of corn fodder can be harvested with a chopper or with a large baler, he said, depending on the intended use and on the moisture level in the corn fodder.

He showed video of his corn head moving through the field at 3-3 ½ miles per hour and another video of the head harvesting corn with snow on the ground. Straeter said that even in very challenging conditions there were no humps or clumps in the windrow.

Moisture, however, is a challenge when it comes to this new technology. "You can’t control the weather you just have to work with it," he said.

"You want to harvest the grain when it’s right to harvest the grain because that’s the main crop but once you shell the corn you have to deal with that windrow."

Straeter said that in trials he did under various conditions, a merger or inverter worked very well to help dry that windrow of fodder for baling.

He designed the patented "Cornrower" attachment to go on a New Holland 99C chopping corn head. The system catches the stalk material under the corn head and creates a uniform windrow. After the corn is shelled, the combine deposits chopped husk and cobs on top of the windrow.

Straeter said the idea is to decrease the dry-down time for the stover and decrease extra trips through the field.

Field tests he has done show that these chopped stover windows created by his invention result in improved baler intake, bale density and bale shape compared to windrows created by conventional methods of doing the same job – chopping and raking or shredding/windrowing systems..

The material windrowed by his combine attachment produces a material that feeds uniformly and packs easily.

Straeter said that his process reduces the amount of dirt and the number of rocks that get included in the stover and chops it in a way that the material will be much more user-friendly in a feed mixer.

The "Cornrower" attachment doesn’t affect combine performance, or grain quality or grain loss, he said, and it doesn’t hinder a combine’s maneuverability either.

The inventor tested the combine’s fuel usage with an eight-row head operating at four miles per hour and found that it used less than three gallons of fuel per hour more than the combine using a standard corn head – far less fuel than would be needed to make the extra two or three trips through the field to harvest fodder another way.



"Farmers understand the economics," he said.

This year in his area some farmers were able to make up to $100 per acre from the harvest of their corn fodder because feed is in such short supply.

"170-bushel per acre corn is netting $100 per acre after fertilizer, twine, baling is accounted for," he said.

Straeter’s presentation showed photos of corn fields that were planted with cover crops prior to corn harvest and he said those crops do much better if some of the stover is removed as it is with his system.

In fields where corn is grown year after year increased yields are apparent if stover is removed, too. The new unit will be offered by New Holland starting next August.

The unit offers farmers minimum intrusion into the corn harvest while offering an alternative method of stover harvest at the same time it reduces dirt and rock issues, he said.

By putting the stover in windrows, it also allows for much better moisture management of the stover than other systems.

Steve Petersen, an end use product manager with Monsanto’s Corn Product Management team in Iowa, told farmers at the workshop that one of the results of today’s higher-yielding corn plants is more residue.

With corn fields yielding 230 bushel per acre or more there is enough residue that it becomes "a challenge and an opportunity," he said.

When corn is harvested, 58 percent of the dry biomass is grain, leaving 52 percent that is made up of stalks, cobs, leaves and husks. At corn yielding 200 bushels per acre that’s one thing, he said, but at 300 bushels per acre it is "more of an issue."

Many of today’s newer corn planters now include stalk choppers because the newer hybrids leave so much crop residue on the fields.



Because many farmers are growing corn with the Bt gene, the stalks don’t break down over winter as they did with older hybrids. "Today we are harvesting intact plants."

Grower interviews he has done show that growers are making more tillage trips to get rid of this residue between harvest of one crop and planting of the next on fields where corn follows a previous corn crop.

"We asked growers in the central Corn Belt and 80 percent tell us this is a real problem," Petersen said. "The question remains, is the amount of stover big enough to be a business opportunity."

He estimated that there is over 100 million tons of corn stover that could be "sustainably" harvested. "Properly done, it will increase the value of an acre of corn. Improperly done, stover harvest will damage the fields."

Petersen said that in western regions like Nebraska there are problems trying to harvest stover because of wind but in other areas of the Corn Belt, stover may present an opportunity.

Monsanto has been working with John Deere and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to study the idea of corn stover harvest and what could be done with this estimated 100 million tons that is available for harvest.

Their initial thought was that it could be available for use as a biofuel but they wanted to know what value in nutrients would be coming off the fields.

They took 6,000 samples from bales and calculated the value of nutrients leaving the fields in the form of fodder in 1009, 2010 and 2011. The average over three years was about $10 per bale in nutrients per 1,200-pound round bale.

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