Harvesting short wheat
Air reels will also aid in the material conveyance from the cutter bar to the auger in reel-type units when crops are light or thin. These units are made in several different types including finger air reels, non-reel, and units that fit over existing reels. Examples of manufacturers are Crary (West Fargo, ND) and AWS (Mitchell, Ontario Canada). Non-reeled units have the advantage of less eye strain from the continuously rotating header reel, but all units have collection efficiencies compared to conventional reels even in sparse or short crops. These units do not control the amount of wheat stubble left in the field and the operator still has to control the cutting height. In short wheat this may mean little to no field stubble will be left for next season’s moisture collection and for these reason stripper headers may be better choice for certain areas of Kansas.
Draper headers and flex heads
Draper headers may also help with the conveyance of material since they have a very short distance between the cutterbar the conveyance belt. The ability to tip the cutterbar completely back will aid in keeping harvested crop material moving across the cutter bar and onto the belt as well as ensuring some stubble remains standing on the soil surface. Cleats on the belt need to be in good to new condition to maximize conveyance of crop material away from the cutterbar. Set gauge wheels properly to maximize cutting height and leave standing residue.
Flex heads will also help deal with the lower cutting heights and potential ground strikes. In thin stands of wheat it is even more important that sickles and guards are in good condition as there is not as much crop material to push, which would normally help ensure cutting by worn sickles and guards. On headers with finger reels it is quite likely that the short cut wheat will pass in between the fingers rather than being swept backward. Producers may consider adding material over or behind the fingers to act more as a bat to sweep the cutterbar clean. Plastic/vinyl materials or repurposed round baler belting have been successfully used for this purpose.
If harvesting with a draper or flex header, maintain the cutting height as high as possible to preserve standing stubble. Typically, cutting wheat at two-thirds of its full height will result in losses of less than 0.05 percent as any missed heads contain grain that will be lost as tailings during the harvesting process.
Still for many farmers, new equipment may not be an economical choice and you may have to make do with a conventional head on your combine. In this case, adjust the reel to get the best movement of the heads from the cutter bar to the auger. Combining in slighter wetter conditions may help prevent shatter and decrease losses. If wheat heads have flipped out of the header from the top of the auger, an extra “auger stripper bar” may necessary. A small strip of angle iron can be bolted slightly behind and below the auger to help with material conveyance. In thin stands of wheat it is even more important that sickles and guards are in good condition as there is not as much crop material to push and ensure cutting by worn sickles and guards.
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