It’s the first week of November, and Benson farmer and custom harvester Tim Foslien is slogging through one of the toughest harvests in memory.
Adding to the pressure, Foslien is also harvesting corncobs for the first time. He has leased a Vermeer CCX770 cob harvester for the season and hopes to collect at least 2,000 acres of cobs.
Iowa-based Vermeer’s corncob harvesting machine is one of the first of a new generation of implements designed to collect crop residue for emerging biomass markets. The wagon-style cob harvester is towed behind the combine. It connects to the combine with a bolt-on hitch and has its own power system.
• Minnesota farmers harvested several thousand acres of corncobs this fall.
• Vermeer’s harvester is one of the first of a new generation of implements.
• A prototype harvested about 6 acres of corncobs per hour in 2008.
The wagon’s patented fan system, powered by an onboard 115-horsepower diesel engine, separates the cobs from the leaves and husks. The clean cobs drop into a bin, and the residue is ejected out the back of the wagon and spread over the field.
Crop moisture, maturity, hybrid and material handling in the combine all affect cob separation, says Jay Van Roekel, Vermeer product manager. The cob harvester’s engine, blower and belt speeds can be adjusted to match crop conditions and end-user needs. “Some markets want a clean cob,” he says, “and other markets want some of the husk.”
The CCX770 holds about 7,000 pounds of cobs. A hydraulic lift raises the cob bin for emptying. Dump heights range from 9 feet, 7 inches to 15 feet, 6 inches to accommodate high-box wagons or semitrailers.
Foslien prepares to dump another load of cobs. This is his first afternoon harvesting both corn grain and cobs near Clontarf, and he’s still getting a feel for the new machinery.
The 21-foot-long CCX770 weighs about 21,000 pounds, empty. “You know it’s back there,” Foslien says. “The weight is significant.” It takes about 20 units of horsepower to pull the CCX770, Van Roekel says, but disengaging the combine’s chopper frees up 35 to 65 units of power for towing.
Foslien touches a control panel in the cab of his John Deere 9870 STS combine and lifts the cob bin over the waiting cart. He has to stop to dump cobs about three times an hour.
In 2008, a prototype Vermeer cob harvester, towed by an eight-row combine with a stalk-chopping head, collected 6.2 acres of cobs per hour, averaged over 1,800 acres, according to a University of Minnesota report. Harvesting grain only, combines can generally cover about 10 acres per hour.
Morrison is a writer from Morris.
This article published in the February, 2010 edition of THE FARMER.