# Measuring Field Losses From Grain Combines

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1 Measuring Field Losses From Grain Combines Paul E. Sumner and E. Jay Williams Extension Engineers Harvest losses can rob you of profit from grain and bean production. Harvest losses of 0 percent or more are not unusual, when they should be in the to 4 percent range. If you do not check losses behind your combine, you have no idea what the losses are and where they occur during harvesting. The following procedure outlines how to measure losses during harvest. It also shows you where the losses occur. The grain or beans saved mean that much more profit saved. Corn Set the initial combine adjustments according to the operator s manual. Once the loss data is completed, then you can make adjustments. How to Measure Losses from a Corn Combine First, stop your corn combine (without clearing it) 00 feet or more from row ends (in corn typical of the entire field). Use a wooden frame or four wooden stakes and string for laying out the measured area. Follow the four steps listed below.. L OSS FROM CORN HEAD (SNAPPING ROLL LOSS ): Back the combine up 0 feet and count kernels in 0 square foot plots over each row in front of the combine. Place a frame of the correct size (see Table ) over each row, count loose kernels and divide by 0. Then take the average of these to get approximate loss in bushels per acre for each row. For example, Table indicates that for 0 inch row spacing, you need a 0-inch x 48-inch frame. Place the frame over each row in swath (see Figure on page ), cut off and remove the stalks, then count the kernels. Assume you find 4 kernels in the frame area in the left row: 4 divided by 0 means a. bushel per acre loss for that row. Then make a count in the center row, and then the right row. Machine loss is the average of these three row losses. Table. Dimensions of 0 Square Foot Frames for Various Row Spacing. Frame Length (inches) Row Spacing along Row (inches) * *Use same frame as for 40-inch rows, but place frame over two rows at a time. Example of corn head kernel loss: Kernel count per frame Divide by Loss per row (Bu./A. Left row 4 0. Center row Right row 4 0. Average corn head kernel loss:.9 =.4 Bu./A.

2 Check corn head loss by backing machine up and counting kernels in 0 square foot frames over each row. Figure. Measuring corn harvest losses from a typical combine ( rows shown). Measure cylinder and separation losses here (follow step ). Each ¾ lb. ear or equivalent smaller ears left in /00 acre (see Figure ) equals bu./a. (see step ). Note: Cylinder loss and separation loss are determined the same as the previous method, but insert the proper counts per frame as follows.. CYLINDER LOSS: Divide 0 into the number of kernels remaining on cobs in the 0 square foot areas at the rear of the machine to find cylinder loss in bushels per acre. Again, average the row losses to get the machine cylinder loss. Count the number of loose kernels in the same 0 square foot areas. Divide this number by 0 and subtract the loss from the corn head kernel loss. This equals the separation loss behind the machine.. COUNT EARS LOST: Gather ears from the machine swath covering /00 acre (see Table for length of area). Each ¾ lb. ear or equivalent smaller ears represents bushel per acre loss. Ear loss in /00 acre behind the combine, minus ear loss in /00 acre of standing corn in front of the combine (preharvest losses) gives machine ear loss in bushels per acre (see Figure on page ). 4. FIND TOTAL MACHINE LOSS by adding machine ear loss to the total corn kernel loss found in steps and. Small Grains, Soybeans and Grain Sorghum (Drilled) Use the initial settings given in the operator s manual (these assume average conditions). Final adjustments must be made in the field, because operating the combine is affected by grain moisture, stalk condition, weeds, grain, variety and yield. Table. Row Length in Feet per /00 Acre. Row Width (Inches) One Row Two Rows Three Rows Four Rows Six Rows Eight Rows Distance (Feet)

3 Field losses can be divided into two categories: () pre-harvest and () harvest (combine). Pre-harvest losses are those caused by shattering and lodging, and loss of dry matter due to birds, wildlife, weather and other natural causes. Harvest losses are those caused by the combine. Some losses are unavoidable. Proper combine adjustment and operation plus early harvest can minimize these losses. Field losses can be determined by counting the kernels or seed left in the field after harvest. This is normally done by counting the kernels or seed in a 0 square foot area across the swath width of the combine. Table gives the rectangular dimensions for a 0 square foot area across the swath of the combine. Table. Rectangular Dimensions for 0 Square Foot Plot. Common Machine Swath (feet) Distance to Enclose 0 sq. ft. (inches) If the row spacing is feet and you harvest 4 rows, the swath is feet even if you harvest with a - to 5-foot header. The actual header width is used for small grains. Table 4 gives the approximate number of kernels (or seed) per 0 square feet to equal bushel per acre for various crops. These values assume average seed or kernel size and can vary slightly among different varieties. To determine exact values, divide the number of seed in a bushel by the area in acre (4,560 sq. ft.) and multiply by 0 for a 0 square foot area. Table 4. Approximate Number of Kernels per 0 Square Feet to Equal Bushel per Acre. Crop Approximate Number of Kernels Wheat 00 Oats 00 Soybeans 40 Barley 40 Rye 0 Sorghum 0 To measure losses, stop the combine at least 00 feet from the end of the row (without clearing) and move backwards 0 feet. You can measure the pre-harvest losses in a 0 square foot area in the standing crop ahead of the machine. The header losses can be measured immediately ahead of the machine, and total losses behind the machine (Figure on page 4). Pre-harvest losses subtracted from total losses gives machine loss. Subtracting header (or gathering) loss from machine loss gives cylinder and separation loss. The cylinder loss is the number of unthrashed kernels Determine the total ear loss by laying out a /00 acre test area immediately behind the combine, as described in the text. Gather the missed ears from all the rows in the test area. Each ¾ lb. ear or equivalent represents bushel per acre loss. Determine the pre-harvest loss by laying out a /00 acre test area in the standing corn in front of the combine, as described in the text. Gather and count the ears on the ground as in part. Determine the machine ear loss by subtracting the pre-harvest loss (part ) from the total ear loss (part ). Figure. Determine ear corn loss.

5 Form RECORD FOR CHECKING CORN COMBINE LOSSES Name of farmer Condition of crop Number of rows harvested by combine Width between corn rows inches Row length per /00 acre (Table ) feet Row length for 0 square foot frame (Table ) inches Step A. Snapping Roll Loss (in front of combine after backing 0 feet) Row Kernels on Ground 0 square feet Loss Bushel/Acre Column Total Total for all rows number of rows = Step B. Corn Kernel Loss for Machine (behind combine) Row Free Kernels on Ground (0 sq. ft.) Kernels Attached to Cob (0 sq. ft.) 4. Total Kernels on Ground ( ) 5. Loss Bushels/Acre per Row (Column 4 0) Free Kernel Total: Total Total for all rows number of rows = Kernel Loss Bushels/Acre Free Kernels Total for all rows number of rows = Free Kernel Loss Bushels/Acre 5

6 Step. Cylinder Loss (behind combine) Row Kernels on Cob (from Step B Col. ) Loss, Bushels/Acre Column 0 Total: Total for all rows number of rows = Kernel Loss Bushels/Acre Step. Ear Loss Total ear loss Bushels/Acre minus pre-harvest loss = machine ear loss Bushels/Acre Step 4. Total Machine Loss Machine ear loss + kernel loss (Step B) = total machine loss Bushels/Acre Step 5. Separation Loss. From Step B, column, Total Free Kernel Loss on Ground Bushels/Acre. From Step A, Snapping Roll Loss Bushels/Acre. Separation Loss Bushels/Acre Separation Loss = Total Free Kernel Loss on ground minus Snapping Roll Loss 6

7 Form RECORD FOR CHECKING SMALL GRAIN AND SOYBEAN COMBINE LOSSES Name of farmer Crop Condition of crop (weedy, lodged, wet, etc.) Width of cut feet. Distance to enclose 0 sq. ft. inches (Table ) Source of Loss Kernels per 0 sq. ft. Kernels per 0 sq. ft. to equal bushel/acre (Table 4) 4 Loss Bushels/Acre Column Column Total Crop Loss Pre-Harvest Loss Machine Loss (Total loss minus pre-harvest loss) Gathering Loss (a, b, c, d minus pre-harvest loss) a. shatter b. stubble c. lodged d. stalk Cylinder and Separation Separation Observations Condition of straw as it leaves rack: Amount of chaff and other debris in tailings: Are unthreshed heads of pods going over the chaffer extension? Condition of threshed grain in the tank (damaged kernels or extensive dirt): 7

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