The Cost of Kernel Loss

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

As I dove into our first field of corn this last Saturday, I was anxious as to what all we would find. Sure, given all the challenges of this year I was waiting to see what the yield looked like. But I was equally anticipating what the moisture was going to be given, how long it took to get to black layer, and what we had seen when we hand shelled an ear. I was very surprised to be combining 18-19 moisture corn. But that surprise quickly wore off, and to be honest, then my attention shifted. You see, earlier this fall we decided to put a pair of YieldSaver chains on our corn head and give them a try. We were apprehensive to do so as we thought we would be fighting high moisture corn but figured it was only fair to give them a complete and thorough test.

So part of that test was going to be evaluating them in all moisture conditions. I have a feeling we will still get to see that to a degree, but I also feel like we should back up for a second. For those of you that are unfamiliar with them, The YieldSaver chains by 360 Yield Center have a straightforward design concept. That concept is that when ears of corn come down and hit the deck plates, we have the potential to shell corn at that point. And with nothing but the gathering chain there, there is a gap that allows kernels to fall through the gap and land on the ground. The concept of these chains is that our gathering chain now has brushes, or bristles if you will attached to them. These brushes do two things. First, they are obviously softer than a deck plate, and the ear has less shelling when it comes down and strikes these vs. the deck plate. Second, these brushes intermesh just enough to cover the gap in the deck plates. So when an ear does shell off some kernels, or you have a nubbin, instead of falling through, they are carried up to the head.

But to be honest, there was always a couple of questions that went along with these chains though. Every model of head is made a bit differently, so how do we evaluate the chains to make sure they do what they say? The second question, and much harder to answer is just because we get the kernels into the head, does that translate into getting them into the grain tank? So I think that it is important today to show you how to do these evaluations yourself. That way, you can make an objective decision about how the product is performing with your hardware, and we can quickly determine what the potential is for your farm.

So we are going to have a couple of adjacent rows installed on the outside of this combine head, that way we have four rows together to evaluate. What we will do is end our last pass when the head gets the last of the corn, and stop there, so we have 15 or so feet here where the spreader hasn’t gone over yet. Do the same thing on the next pass and stop 15 or so feet in. Then we are going to send the combine on its way on the next pass while we do some work. We are going to remove the residue off of our eight rows here carefully. Then using two different color flags, we will mark each kernel we find from the old chains vs. the YieldSaver rows. For the second half about what we capture in the tank, there isn’t a good way to verify that, so the best we can do is analyze the size of the kernels on the ground and make a good guess.

The take home for today is that we need to see about 2 bushels per acre to pay for these YieldSavers in a single year. That equates out to just less than two kernels per square foot. Now, once you know what the numbers are for corn head, there are a couple of other things to take into consideration. As the corn gets dryer, the head loss will increase. The other side of this is volunteer corn. If you see a reduction of kernels on the ground, but it isn’t the 2 per square foot that we are looking for, what is your crop rotation? If you see a reduction of 1 kernel per square foot and you are going back to corn in 2018, then that is definitely economically significant as well. If you want to give these YieldSavers a try, contact your ACS Equipment Tech, and we will get you a row or two to try, and then you can do your own evaluation to understand how they work with your equipment and your farm.