Harvesting short wheat
In many areas of Kansas, prolonged drought has resulted in short wheat and thin stands. Harvesting wheat in these situations can be a challenge. Special attention needs to be given to cutting height, machine adjustments, and operator control. In short wheat, getting the heads into the combine with less straw will be a challenge. In some cases, the reel may not be able to effectively convey the wheat back from the cutter bar to the auger, nor hold it in place during cutting. Short cutting will also mean more contact potential with the ground and reduced levels of surface residue which can negatively impact cropping systems in water-limited environments.
In the case of material conveyance, stripper headers, air reels, and draper headers may be a great help.
Stripper headers allow the grain to be harvested efficiently while leaving the maximum amount of standing residue in the field. Research has shown that this preservation of wheat residue can reduce evaporative losses of water after harvest, aid in the moisture retention of snow, and improve the yields of the next year’s crop.
To properly use a stripper header, note the following:
Operators need to be aware of the rotor height and the relative position of the hood to the rotor. This position needs to be set correctly so that heads approach the rotor at the proper angle for stripping.
Keep the nose of the hood orientated so that the top of the wheat heads are even with, or slightly below, the forward point of the nose. This may require operating the header with the nose in a slightly lower-than-normal position relative to the rotor. However, it’s important to note that running a stripper header lower than necessary will result in increased power consumption and finger wear.
Combine ground speeds should be kept high (above 4 mph) to maintain collection efficiency and minimize header losses.
Several people have reported that adjusting header height with a stripper header is not as critical as it is with a conventional header, and that a stripper header could easily be run by non-experienced people (see step 1).
Continue to adjust stripping rotor speed throughout the day as conditions change. If rotor speeds are too high, that will result in detachment of the entire head and unnecessary increases power requirements. Rotor speeds that are too slow will result in unstripped grain remaining in the head. In general, rotor speeds will be less in thin short wheat than in better stands.