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Should You Switch to Ear Corn Harvesting
"Just look at the $80,000 price tag on a new self-propelled combine nowadays, versus about $15,000 for a 3-row ear corn picker. Amortize that over ten years and you've got a savings of $6,500 a year," says Charles Kleptz, Ohio corn grower who has developed an ear corn harvesting system he feels is the answer to soaring energy and equipment costs.
Kleptz, who has been a professional engineer, restaurant designer, meat packing plant owner and who is presently farming 800 acres in Ohio's Miami and Montgomery Counties, figures he saves 30 to 40 a bu. by harvesting and storing 280 acres of ear corn, compared to conventional field shelling.
Kleptz first bought a Harvestore to store his corn. But he wanted the flexibility to either feed corn, or sell it on the open market - an option he felt he didn't have with the Harvestore. Soaring energy and equipment costs also discouraged him.
So, with the help of an $18,000 grant from the Department of Energy, Kleptz assembled an ear corn harvesting-storage system with "catalog equipment" which he says could be duplicated by anyone. However, he thinks manufacturers should design an entire equipment system for ear corn harvesting, based on today's corn yields and desired harvest rates.
Kleptz uses a pull-type three-row corn picker and picks into a highdump forage wagon. "This is one of the secret's to Kleptz's success with ear corn harvest," says R. Donald Moore, Ohio University Farm Management Agent headquartered at Eaton, Ohio. "Charles is using forage equipment to handle ear corn because it's not free-flowing like shelled corn. And, while there's twice the volume with ear corn, he's only handling about 29% more weight compared to shelled corn."
Although it could hold much more, the dump wagon is unloaded about' every 125 bu. for easier field operation. Two dumps are placed in an 18 ft. truck which then heads for the storage area, with a maximum distance of about three miles one way. At the storage area, 10-wire mesh corn cribs have been erected in a semi-circle so they can be filled with a 50-ft. elevator from a central unloading area. Here, trucks are dumped into a platform feeder (similar to a forage wagon with chain-and-slat conveyor in the bottom) which meters corn into a conventional chain-and-flight grain and bale elevator. The truck endgate opens automatically when the bed is hoisted and Kleptz says it takes about 10-13 min. to unload and store 250 bu. of ear corn. One man hauling can usually keep up with the corn picker says Kleptz (although the picker will likely have to wait some as hauling distance increases to three miles).
The cribs are each 18/2 ft. in dia., 20 ft. to the eaves, and have an oversized 24 in. dia. vent tube running up the center. Air is drawn up through the vent by a wind-driven turbine on top, and the upper 5 ft. of vent tube is solid to avoid drawing air through only the top layer of corn.
Corn stored last fall with 29% moisture was down to 18% when it was removed in mid-March, and Kleptz expects no problems with spoilage in the remaining cribs. This fall, he plans to begin harvesting ear.corn at 35% moisture.
Kleptz uses a Kelly Ryan ear corn auger to pull corn from cribs into the same elevator used for filling. The equipment essentially eliminates all hand labor from ear corn harvest to storage and removal.
Working in cooperation with other Ohio State University specialists, Moore has estimated that Kleptz (or other farmers with similar equipment and facilities) can harvest 20,000 bu. of corn in 11 days with two men working 10 hours per day. The Ohio specialists also figure twice that many total bushels could be harvested in most years with the same setup without severe weather problems. They calculate labor at $4.50 per hour and an 80-hp. tractor pulling a 3-row 30-in. corn picker. Using these calculations, Kleptz arrived at his estimate of 30 to 40 saved per bu. with his ear corn harvesting system, versus conventional field shelling.
It is generally accepted that the energy (in btu's) in a bushel of corn cobs is about equal to a gallon of oil, and m


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1980 - Volume #4, Issue #3