Managing corn residue can be as much an art form as a science, requiring a combination of the right tools to match a farmer’s objectives.
For more than 2 decades, Beaver Dam, Wis., no-tiller and strip-tiller Charlie Hammer has experimented with residue sizing and spreading systems on his combine, including chopping corn heads and knife rolls.
The residue management systems Hammer previously ran produced mixed results, and he says he struggled with consistently being able to find an ideal solution to evenly distribute residue, while also avoiding buildup, on his 1,900-acre operation.
Hammer also experimented with a factory-model chopping corn head on his Claas Lexion 740 combine. After promising results during the first 2 years, he ran into issues with having a mat of residue forming between corn rows.
“We were pulling our hair out for years because we really had challenges with being able to find an alternative to the factory systems on the 12-row head of our Lexion combine,” Hammer says. “One of the biggest issues we saw was that because the knife systems cut horizontal, that 12th row would push the residue to the outside, then do the same thing on the next pass to create a windrow of residue. We could almost bale the rows with a round baler because there was so much residue between rows.”
One of the ongoing challenges Hammer faced was being able to find an aftermarket residue management solution for the 12-row Geringhoff corn head on his Lexion combine which he admits is an unusual combination. Hammer worked with a handful of manufacturers to retrofit a solution, but had no luck being able to find the right combination of mechanical parts and field performance.
But weeks ahead of 2017 harvest, Hammer had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Indiana based Kingdom Ag Concepts, manufacturers of ShredSelect stalk roll technology. In beta testing at that time, the new system’s modular design used differential speeds generated by different roll sizes and adjustable rotary knives to shred stalks.
Hammer worked with the company to get all 12 rows of his Geringhoff corn head outfitted with the stalk rolls and No-Till Farmer editors had the opportunity to ride along with Hammer during 2017 harvest to see the prototype system in action on 1,200 acres of strip-tilled corn-on-corn.
“The system definitely did what we wanted it to, spreading residue to the side of the row where we wanted and not creating a mat like we had seen with the chopping head or confetti-creating type systems we had been running,” he says. “One of the other advantages I liked was that we were able to use less horsepower on the combine than other systems we’ve had in the past. I can’t say for sure how much, but there was a noticeable difference.”
This spring, Hammer says his strip-tilled continuous corn fields where he ran the residue management tool was noticeably “cleaner” between rows of residue and he didn’t encounter any of the buildup between rows that had been an issue in the past.
“One adjustment I plan to make is the cutting angle of the rolls and make a few updates on the guidance on the corn head,” Hammer says.
According to Rick Tomic, business development director for ShredSelect, the system is a mix between a chopping head and standard stalk rolls. The rolls shred and keeps residue around the row vs. blowing sideways against the neighboring row or showering small pieces in the rows.
“The rolls are modular. A full set comes with a six-knife design per roll, but farmers have the option to take some out, depending on the length of stalk they want,” he says. “We see the system as a good fit for no-till and minimum-tillage systems because the rolls rip open the stalks, allowing microbes to get in and break the residue down. It also splits the top of the remaining stubble, which lessens tire wear.”