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Conference Name Helping Producers Design Low-Risk, Low-Cost Grain Harvesting Systems

Gary Schnitkey


A multi-state educational project is underway to develop tools to help Midwest cash grain farmers make efficient use of their harvesting equipment, keep both ownership and operating costs low, and ensure that harvesting can be completed before weather conditions cause unacceptable levels of yield and quality losses.

The grain harvesting process consists of several stages: combining grain, emptying it into an auger wagon, moving it to a wagon or truck, transporting it to a drying facility or directly to storage, then moving it to the final delivery point. The physical quantity and moisture level of the crop can vary significantly from year to year, making sizing of the total system difficult. Insufficient capacity in any one these stages can result in bottlenecks in the system, leading to late harvesting and reduced income. On the other hand, unused capacity in any stage increases ownership costs.

The overall limiting factor is the number of suitable field days available during each harvesting season, which is highly variable from year to year. This introduces a large element of risk and uncertainty into the investment decision. The trend toward planting more acres of corn and fewer acres of soybeans will exacerbate this problem.

The expected outcomes of the project include a harvesting system data base, computer simulation aids to compare harvesting systems, a publication with background materials and worksheets, and teaching outlines. Data on machinery costs, suitable field days, and harvesting losses will be researched and incorporated into the decision aids.