Researchers Study Benefits of Grain Harvesting
Device By Don
Comis August 27, 2009
Harvesting grains with a relatively new and underused device called a
"stripper header" may boost profits and conservation benefits at the same time,
according to an Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) study.
Farmers in the harsh climate of Colorado looked to ARS scientists
Nielsen to determine if it was worth considering the new combine header
instead of a traditional combine header. Vigil, a soil scientist, and Nielsen,
an agronomist, work at the ARS
Great Plains Research Station in Akron, Colo. Henry, a plant geneticist,
was formerly at the Akron facility and now works at the ARS
Host Plant Resistance Research Unit in Mississippi State, Miss.
The stripper header removes just the head of grain, leaving the rest
of the plant standing to enhance precipitation storage and erosion protection.
Traditional combine headers cut off most of the plant stalk with a sickle and
leave the stubble short.
The researchers studied whether the stripper header would reduce
yields by losing grain through increased shattering, and whether it would work
as well with millet as it does with wheat.
In a 4-year experiment with proso millet, they showed that the header
did not reduce yields. And it left up to an18-inch-tall stubble, compared to 3
to 4 inches left by the combine's sickle bar header. For wheat, the stripper
header leaves 2- foot-tall stubble, compared to 6 to 8 inches left by the
sickle bar header.
The Akron area is dry, with strong winds. Each year of the study,
these winds blew away a third of the millet residue left by the combine's
sickle bar header within 10 days after harvest. This crop averaged only 2 tons
per acre of residue measured about a week after harvest. There were 3 tons per
acre of residue for the stripper-harvested crop.
Farmers usually harvest millet in two operations: one pass with a
machine that swaths the plants into windrows, and a second pass with a combine
to remove the grain. The stripper header eliminates the need to swath the
plants, saving time and fuel. The more crops on which a farmer can use the
stripper header, the more affordable the machine becomes.
The research was published in the Agronomy Journal.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency in the
U.S. Department of