Harvest Supplement - National Sunflower Association

Harvest Supplement - National Sunflower Association
Sunflower Harvest,
Drying & Storage
Special Supplement
To The Sunflower
A ‘Well-Adjusted’ Harvest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Benefits of Earlier Harvest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Harvest Attachments & Conversion Kits . . . . . . 4
Skinny on Shrink (Moisture Shrink, That Is) . . . . 7
Nothing Fine About ‘Fines’ in Harvest . . . . . . . . 8
Automatic Fire Extinguisher System . . . . . . . . . 8
Estimating Seed Loss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Dry Is Good (But Not Too Dry) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Proper Sunflower Storage: The Basics . . . . . . . 12
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
A ‘Well-Adjusted’ Harvest
Veteran sunflower producers are
well-versed in setting and tweaking
their combines to produce optimum
threshing efficiency. For those newer to
the crop, however, the following guidelines should prove helpful. Their source
is the section on harvesting in North
Dakota State University’s Sunflower
Production handbook (EB-25 Revised),
published in September 2007. The
author is Vern Hofman, recently retired
extension ag engineer at NDSU.
Combine Adjustment Indicators
Source: Kansas State University Extension
Problem —
Possible Cause —
• Partially threshed heads on ground
• Concave spacing too wide
• Excessive tailings
• Air flow too low, overthreshing at
cylinder/rotor; or chaffer openings
too narrow
• Trash in hopper bin
• Overthreshing; cylinder/rotor speed
too high; concave too tight; fan too
low; or sieve too wide
• Broken or crushed heads
• High cylinder/rotor speeds; or narrow
concave spacing
• Crushed seed with intact hull
• Concave spacing too tight
• Dehulled or broken seeds
• High cylinder/rotor speeds or
excessive returns
• Unthreshed heads on ground
• Poor gathering at the header
• Seeds being thrown out back
• Speed/air flow; slow down the
machine and air flow rate
— Forward Speed —
A combine’s forward speed usually
should average between 3.0 to 5.0
miles per hour. The optimum forward
speed will vary depending upon moisture content of the sunflower seed and
yield of the crop.
Forward speed should be decreased
as seed moisture content decreases to
reduce the shatter loss as the heads feed
into the combine. Faster forward
speeds are possible if the moisture of
the seed is between 12 and 15%. The
higher speeds should not overload the
cylinder and the separating area of the
combine, except in an extremely heavy
crop. Seed having 12 to 15% moisture
will thresh from the head very easily as
it passes through the cylinder.
— Cylinder Speed —
After the sunflower heads are separated from the plant, they should be
threshed at a cylinder speed operating
as slow as possible. The normal cylinder speed should be about 300 revolutions per minute (rpm), depending upon
the condition of the crop and the combine being used. This cylinder speed is
for a combine with a 22”-diameter
cylinder to give a cylinder bar travel
speed of 1,725 feet per minute.
Combines with smaller cylinders
will require a faster speed, and combines with a larger cylinder diameter
will require a slower speed. Rotary
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
combines, as well as conventional
machines, should have similar cylinder
travel speeds. A rotary combine with a
30” cylinder will need to be operated at
220 rpm to have a cylinder bar speed of
1,725 feet per minute. A combine with
a 17” cylinder will need to operate at
390 rpm to have a cylinder bar speed of
1,725 feet per minute.
If a combine cylinder operates at
speeds of 400 to 500 rpm, giving a
cylinder bar speed of more than 2,500
feet per minute, very little seed should
be cracked or broken if the moisture
content of the seed is above 11%.
Cylinder bar speeds of more than 3,000
feet per minute should not be use since
they will cause excessive broken seed
and increased dockage. Excess dockage and broken seed may overload the
sieves and the return elevator.
— Concave Adjustment —
Sunflower threshes relatively easily.
When crop moisture is at 10% or less,
conventional machines should be set
wide open to give a cylinder-to-concave
spacing of about 1.0” at the front of the
cylinder and about 0.75” at the rear. A
smaller concave clearance should be
used only if some seed is left in the
heads. If the moisture of the crop is
between 10 and 12%, rather than
increase the cylinder speed, the cylinder-to-concave clearance should be
decreased to improve threshing. If seed
moisture exceeds 15 to 20%, a higher
cylinder speed and a closer concave
setting may be necessary, even though
foreign material in the seed increases.
Seed breakage and dehulling may
be a problem with close concave settings. Make initial adjustments as recommended in the operator’s manual.
Final adjustments should be made
based on crop conditions.
Rotary combines should be set to
have a rotor-to-concave spacing of
about 0.75 to 1.0”. Making initial settings as recommended in the operator’s
manual usually is bes, with final adjustments made based on crop conditions.
— Fan Adjustment —
Oil-type and nonoil (confection)
sunflower weigh about 28 to 32 lbs/bu
and 22 to 26 lbs/bu, respectively. The
Benefits of Earlier Harvest
ith the high costs of energy these days, it’s tempting to let those sunflower seeds sit in the field and
let Mother Nature do all the drying for you. But if
you’re equipped with either a high-temperature dryer or
a natural air/low-temp setup, it can make plenty of sense
— and dollars — to harvest your sunflower fields while
seed moisture is in the lower to mid-teens, rather than
wait for it to dry down to around 10%. Here’s why:
• Reduced Exposure to Pests & Inclement Weather
— The sooner mature seeds are harvested, the less you
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
seed is relatively light compared with
other crops, so excessive wind may
blow seed over the chaffer and sieve.
Seed forced over the sieve and into the
tailings auger will be returned to the
cylinder and may be dehulled. Only
enough wind to keep the trash floating
across the sieve should be used. The
chaffer and sieve should be adjusted to
minimize the amount of material that
passes through the tailings elevator.
When the combine is adjusted correctly to thresh sunflower seed, the
threshed heads will come through only
slightly broken and with only unfilled
seed remaining in the head. Cylinder
concaves and cleaning sieves usually
can be set to obtain less than 5% dockage. Improper settings will crush the
seed but leave the hull intact. Proper
setting is critical — especially for nonoil
sunflower that is used for the human
food market. The upper sieve should
be open enough to allow an average
seed to pass through on end, or be set
at a 1/2 to 5/8” opening. The lower
sieve should be adjusted to provide a
slightly smaller opening (about 3/8”
wide). The final adjustments will
depend upon the amount of material
returning through the tailings elevator
and an estimation of the amount of
dockage in the grain tank. Some operators are able to adjust and operate their
machine to allow only 2 to 3% dockage
in the seed.
stand to lose to those late-season threats: blackbirds,
windstorms, heavy rains and insect- or disease-induced
• Harvest Speed — The combine’s ground speed can
be a little faster when harvesting seeds that are above 10
or 11% moisture. Shatter loss at the head will be lower
than when combining at 10% or below.
• Less Shattering Overall — Along with minimizing
seed shatter loss while combining, there will be less
shatter loss from plant heads bumping against each
other on windy autumn days prior to harvest.
• Ease of Drying — Drying damp seeds is cheaper
and goes faster when ambient temperatures are still
warm and the humidity low, as compared to late
autumn drying conditions — particularly in the Northern
• Lower Foreign Matter — With today’s hybrids,
sunflower plant heads may still be yellow, not brown,
though the seeds are fully mature and dry enough to
harvest. Slightly damp heads will not break up during
threshing nearly as much as will those whose seed moisture is below 10%.
• Reduced Combine Fire Risk — Harvesting damper
seeds with less foreign material greatly reduces static
cling of fines, resulting in less material buildup on the
combine and a lower risk of fires.
What’s Available in
Harvest Attachments
& Conversion Kits
automatic self-adjusting deck plates,
saving butt shelling loss — particularly
on the newer fast-drydown hybrids.
This head can be adapted to almost any
combine by using the proper feeder
house adapter plate for the specific
combine model.
For More Information: DragoTec
USA, 3701 30th Ave., Fenton, IA
50539; phone — (888) 456-8282 or
(515) 889-2723; web site —
The Flexxifinger™ QD™ Sunflower
Pan was introduced to farmers in 2007
by Saskatchewan agricultural manufacturer Flexxifinger QD Industries. It is
designed for quick installation, removal
or transition to other types of harvest
attachments. The sunflower system will
undergo its final stages of customer trials this season and is expected to be
available to the general market in 2009.
DragoTec USA
Editor’s Note: Numerous sunflower
producers utilize row-crop combine
heads to harvest this crop. Many others
opt for a harvest attachment specifically
designed for sunflower. Still others
employ special conversion kits fitted to
their corn head.
The following pages contain information on several sunflower attachments and conversion kits available to
producers. The information has been
provided by the companies themselves
and edited for use in The Sunflower.
This compilation is not totally inclusive, as not every company we contacted responded to our request for information. Most did, however. Contact
details are included for growers who
wish to visit further about a given company’s products.
Drago sunflower knives have been
marketed since 2002. They are manufactured for use with the Drago corn
head deck plates, but also can be modified to work with other makes. Drago
corn heads range in rows from four to
18; in spacing from 20” up to 36”.
The Drago has 50% longer knife
rollers that pull the plants into the deck
plates and gathering chains at low
velocity, thereby reducing shatter and
yield loss. The Drago corn head has
The first-release pans will be available in 9” widths. They will offer farmers the option between a straight, conventional, quick-attaching sunflower
pan and a pan that features a nose portion that is inclined about 15 degrees.
The incline is aimed at salvaging lodged
or low-hanging plant heads.
“The Flexxifinger QD Sunflower
Pans are installed using our patented
QD™ attachment system, which is
installed separately on the header using
provided guard bolts and a special QD
nut, fastened on the top side of the
guard,” says the firm. “This allows a
pan to be removed or installed in seconds and an entire header in minutes.”
For More Information: Flexxifinger
QD Industries, P.O. Box 1599,
Assiniboia, SK S0H 0B0 Canada; phone
— in U.S. (800) 544-8512; in Canada
(800) 925-1510; web site —
Gates Manufacturing
Gates Manufacturing has marketed
its “Quick Tach” sunflower pans for a
number of years. The 48”-long durable
plastic pans are available in three- and
four-pan assembly units for easy han-
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
dling. Overall unit widths range from
three up to 36 feet. The pans are
designed to mount easily (via just two
tighteners) on any auger or draper head.
Gates also offers liftrods that can be
easily attached to the pans to aid with
the harvesting of lodged plants.
For More Information: Gates
Manufacturing Inc., 8710 33rd Ave.
N.W, Lansford, ND 58750; phone —
(701) 784-5434 or 784-5525; web site
— www.gatesmfg.net
“With SunStar conversions installed
on the producer’s corn head, he can
move quickly through his standing
’flowers with a very small loss," says
Golden Plains Ag Tech. “He will be
able to lift lodged stalks and move the
heads into the combine with minimum
loss.” Sunflower heads enter the cross
auger “with the heads unbroken and six
to 12 inches of stalk still attached to the
head,” the company states.
SunStar has no moving parts and
requires no physical modification for
attachment to the corn head. “There is
only one simple adjustment which is
usually made only once per season,”
says Golden Plains. “It is durable, only
two inexpensive replaceable parts.”
For More Information: Golden
Plains Ag Tech, P.O. Box 307, Colby, KS
67701; phone — (800) 255-8280; web
site — www.goldenplains.com/sunstar/
The original Lucke sunflower harvesting attachment dates back to 1966.
Lucke presently offers 9”and 12” pan
width options with its non-reel system.
Other options include liftrods for lodged
plants and roller tips that are particularly useful in solid-seeded fields.
For More Information: Lucke
Manufacturing, 305 33rd Ave. S.W.,
Minot, ND 58701; phone — (800) 7355848 or (800) 735-5838; web site —
Intersteel Industries
Golden Plains Ag Tech
Golden Plains, based in Colby, Kan.,
has been marketing the “SunStar” sunflower harvesting system for the past 15
years, serving customers in North and
South America as well as several countries elsewhere.
SunStar corn head attachments are
used on John Deere and Case IH corn
heads. Golden Plains has recently
introduced a new model for the JD 600
Series corn head.
SunStar is designed to take advantage of the unique physical characteristics for the sunflower stalk. For that reason, sunflower is the only crop that can
be harvested while the SunStar attachments are installed. However, the
attachments are installed and removed
quite easily, so the grower can quickly
switch from ’flowers to corn, or vice
versa, if needed.
Lucke Manufacturing
Sheyenne Tool & Mfg.
The Intersteel sunflower attachment
has been marketed for more than 40
years. Pan width options are nine, 12
and 27 inches, and it is available in all
rigid header lengths. The pans mount
atop guards, with pan supports that
attach beneath the combine header.
The reel drum mounts with bearings
and drive system from the bat reel supplied by the combine manufacturer.
“Pan width, length and rotating
drum help feed plant heads into the
combine/ header smoothly and evenly,”
Intersteel states. “Pan width and length
ensure maximum collection of shattered
seeds in dry crop conditions. The nineinch pans offer most versatility for any
row spacing and also work well for
solid seeding.” The Intersteel attachment also has been used with corn, the
company reports.
Along with the United States and
Canada, Intersteel has sold its harvest
attachment in Chili and the Sudan.
For More Information: Intersteel
Industries, P.O. Box 1451, Morden, MB
R6M 1B3, Canada; phone — (204) 8225055 or (877) 839-9301; web site —
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
The “Sunmaster” harvest header has
been around since 1995. It was originally produced by Westward Products
and later bought by Jim Broten, a North
Dakota farmer and the owner of
Sheyenne Tool & Mfg. in Cooperstown.
The Sunmaster header is available in
eight- and 12-row 30” spacing sizes.
Also, 12-, 16- and 18-row 20” sizes are
available under an early order program. The units can be used in corn
and milo in addition to sunflower. The
system will fit on just about any combine, with adapter plates available.
The Sunmaster’s star cutting knife is
positioned at the back end of the gathering chains. As the stalk is pulled
toward the header platform, it is moved
to one side so that the plant head is
hanging over a vibrating gathering pan.
Any seeds that shatter are dropped onto
the pan and move to the header platform. As the sunflower plant head is
cut off, it drops nearly directly onto the
header platform or onto the vibrating
pans. A cam on the shaft pushes a
rocker arm up and down beneath the
pan. The rocker arm, of replaceable
rubber, strikes a thick strap of iron on
the underside of the pan, continually
moving it up and down. That action
moves the seeds back to the platform.
The Sunmaster effectively harvests
lodged sunflower plants. Depending on
field conditions, it may go with or
against the plants’ angle — or even
crossways. The row dividers slide along
at ground level, with each divider moving up and down independently. The
ground-level travel, coupled with the
star cutters’ position at the back of the
gathering chain, ensures significant crop
savings. There are four large, thick sickle knives per sunflower row.
Some of the other features of the
Sunmaster are:
• Replaceable shoes on the underside of the point of each divider.
• Brackets on each end of the header to prevent heads from getting hung
up in a back corner.
• An adjustable ridge plate to help
direct the stalk into the header.
For More Information: Sheyenne
Tool & Mfg., P.O. Box 647, Cooperstown, ND 58425; phone — (800) 7971883 or (701) 797-2700; web site —
SSR Pump Company
SSR Pump Company has been manufacturing a floating-pan attachment
since the mid-1970s. Designed to be
particularly effective on lodged or down
sunflower, the SSR unit fits on any combine, the company says.
SSR’s “Quick Tach” pan header is
available with 9” or 12” pan widths. A
2x4 support bar and 3/15” mounts for
sickle guards are basic features, as are
two angles per pan for support. End
shields cover the bearings and drive.
Lift rods also are available from SSR.
For More Information: SSR Pump
Company, P.O. Box 149, Michigan, ND
58259; phone — (701) 259-2331
A Timely Harvest
Circa Early 1900s
attachment in 1986. The product
underwent an extensive makeover in
1994 to improve upon its fit, function
and aesthetics. Along with sunflower,
the SeedEater also has been used successfully in milo.
This harvesting attachment has been
sold across the United States and in 14
foreign nations. The company is an
OEM supplier for John Deere and Case
New Holland for their overseas sales.
The SeedEater is available with pan
widths or either 9” or 12”. Overall
attachment widths range from 18 up to
30 feet. “Key features of the SeedEater
include a heavy-duty 16-gauge drum
with specially designed fingers to move
sunflower heads gently but positively to
the auger,” says West Country Products.
“Also, heavy-duty 14-gauge pans with
strong design and extra-long dividers for
more-positive row alignment.
“The SeedEater is easily mounted on
your own combine header and can be
left on a dedicated header or removed,”
West Country adds. “The pans are
mounted on a permanent tube frame;
therefore the drum can be rolled off the
reel arms onto the pans. The chain
binders release on the back of the header, and you are ready to back away
from the SeedEater.”
For More Information: West Country
Products, Inc., P.O. Box 2062,
Jamestown, ND 58401; phone — (866)
974-2182 or (701) 251-2182; web site
— www.westcountryproducts.com ■
The following comments come
from the Cyclopedia of American
Agriculture, published in 1907.
“The sunflower heads should
be harvested before the seeds are
fully ripe. As soon as the seeds
are ripe they begin to shatter, and
before the crop is mature it is likely to be damaged by birds which
gather in flocks to feast on the
rich seeds.
“As ordinarily gathered, the
seeds will not be dry enough to
shell and store, but the heads
should be cured for a week or so
before threshing or shelling. If
only a small quantity is grown,
the heads may be spread out on
the barn floor or in a loft or shed.
“At the Kansas Experiment
Station has been followed the
plan of cutting off the heads with
a sickle or corn knife and putting
them in shallow windrows in the
field for several days, when they
are hauled in and threshed or
stored in large piles. More or less
loss attends the handling of the
crop in this way.”
West Country Products
Jamestown, N.D.-based West
Country Products has distributed the
“SeedEater” sunflower harvesting
attachment since 2006. Midwestern
Machine, its manufacturer, acquired the
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
Skinny on Shrink
(Moisture Shrink, That Is)
Formulas Provide Clear View of How
Deviation from 10% Impacts Growers
— Both in the Field and at Market
ometimes shrinkage is a good thing
— like when it happens to your
waistline. But when shrink brings the
moisture of market-bound sunflower
seeds down below 10%, it’s not.
Every sunflower producer knows
that harvesting the crop at moistures
below 10% hurts him in two ways.
First, it likely will result in more shattering and seed loss at the header.
And second, an 8% or 9% moisture
crop will weigh less than a 10% one,
thus taking away dollars at the marketplace. That’s bad enough when seeds
are worth 10 cents a pound; but when
they’re at 20 or 25 cents, the pocketbook pain is even more pronounced.
And it’s another reason not to
overdry seeds beyond what’s prudent
for proper storage.
Some shrinkage occurs at the elevator or other delivery site. Foreign
material aside, there inevitably is a
certain amount of handling loss —
i.e., spillage, dust blowing off the
crop, etc. These are items over which
the grower has no control, and which
will vary from site to site. The elevator typically will factor such shrinkage
into its handling charges.
Then there is “moisture shrink.”
This term refers to the weight loss in
grain resulting from the drying of that
grain down to a particular moisture
content. “It’s a straightforward number,” points out North Dakota State
University extension ag engineer Ken
Hellevang. “We have an equation
that tells us if we remove [a given
quantity of water] from our grain —
be it sunflower, wheat or corn — we’ll
have a certain weight loss associated
with it. That weight loss is what we
call ‘moisture shrink.’ ”
Table 1 (right) shows the percentage reduction in weight — a constant
value — based upon the final mois-
ture content of the grain, while Table
2 shows the actual pounds one loses
(or gains) at crop moistures below and
above 10%. “If working with sunflower, whose market standard is 10%
moisture, the shrink is going to be
1.111% for every point of moisture
removal,” Hellevang says. “If we take
off five percentage points of moisture,
we know our shrink will be 5.555%.”
So drying 100 pounds of sunflower
at 15% moisture down to 10% would
result in a cumulative moisture shrink
Table 1. Moisture Shrink
Factors for Drying Grain to
Various Moisture Levels
loss of 5.56 pounds, for a net weight
of 94.44 pounds.
Hellevang advises producers — in
advance of harvest — to be clear on
what their elevator’s shrink and other
discount polices are. Understand that
“moisture shrink” is different from
“invisible shrink” or handling loss.
And remember that while moisture
discount levels can vary from elevator
to elevator (and also from date to date
at the same facility), “moisture shrink”
is a constant value.
Table 2. Weight of Sunflower
At Various Moisture Contents,
Compared to Market Standard
Moisture Shrink Factor
Moisture Content
Seed Weight
Final Moisture
Content (%)
(% Shrink Per Point of
Moisture Removed)
(cwt. basis)
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
Nothing Fine About
‘Fines’ in Harvest
ines are not fine at all when it comes to harvesting sunflower. “Fines” — those multitudes of small fibers or fuzz
that rub off sunflower hulls during combining and end up
accumulating on machine surfaces — pose a real threat of
fires. When seeds are dry and engine compartment surfaces
are extremely hot , fines can ignite, smolder and sometimes
burst into flames. The result, for more than a few sunflower
producers, has been a damaged or even destroyed combine.
Farming in central South Dakota, Chuck Todd knows a
thing or two about the risk of combine fires during the sunflower harvest. A hot September afternoon, coupled with
seed moistures under 10%, can aggravate the situation in a
hurry, he affirms.
That’s a primary reason why Todd Ranches likes to harvest at a little higher moisture content. “If we can get in at
about 12%, it really minimizes the threat from all those little
fines,” Todd says. “Even between 12 and 10 isn’t so bad.
The trouble comes when you wait until it’s at 10 — and then
the seeds go from 10 down to 7% almost immediately.
“If you’re not working on a contract where they have to
be at 10% and you can put them in the bin with a little air,
combining 12% seeds sure makes a lot of difference [in
terms of reducing fire risk],” he continues. “And it’s much
easier to clean up; you don’t have so many of those little
pieces in your grain tank.”
Todd, who farms near Onida, says the biggest problem
he’s encountered with fines on his John Deere combines is
that they’ll accumulate on the intake screen. The engine
draws them back, and they sail toward the manifold and
muffler. “Then they stick, and you start building up that
material. It gets hot, falls off — and starts fires.”
The Sully County producer recalls one week during the
2007 harvest when the humidity was below 25%. They had
fires every day up until about 5:00 p.m., when temperatures
started to drop. “I’d clean off the combine two or three
times a day,” Todd recounts. “Then we’d slow the machines
to keep the exhaust temperature down.
“If you’re running a grain cart, the exhaust temperature
will get even higher because you’re never shutting off [the
combine]. Just slowing down and not pushing the engine so
hard will help a lot.”
For Todd, cleaning the combine means blowing off the
fines with an air hose. However, “if a fire does start or there
are little ‘glows,’ we’ll usually soak them down first to get the
flames off,” he explains. “If you just blow them around,
you’ll start fires everywhere.” Once the mass of fines is wet
enough to no longer burn, he’ll go ahead and blow them off.
The combine always has a fire extinguisher on board.
“Sometimes we’ll also carry a small garden sprayer,” Todd
Some of his neighbors have installed gauges to monitor
the combine exhaust temperature. Once that temperature
gets to a certain level ,the operator slows down so the engine
isn’t working as hard. While he hasn’t employed an exhaust
temperature gauge on his own combines, “last year we painted the exhaust and mufflers with a special silver paint, and
that helped,” Todd says. “It made the manifold and muffler
more slippery, so the dust didn’t stick as much.”
Automatic Fire Extinguisher System for Combines
oger Holen’s misfortune may well be a godsend for
other sunflower producers.
Back in 2003, the Upham, N.D., grower was coming
to the end of the sunflower field he was harvesting. As he
turned his John Deere 9600 around to head back down the
field, the engine quit — followed by a loud roar and
intense heat. The combine was on fire.
The oil tank blew even before Holen was able to jump
from the combine. He made it out safely, other than a sore
hip from the leap. But the combine was a total loss.
Holen had just cleaned the combine of chaff a round
and a half prior to the incident. He later surmised that a
cinder probably went through a hydraulic line, "and with
the pressure, it was like a big blow torch."
Coincidentally, Holen’s cousin, Shelby Holen of
Superior, Wis., had recently partnered with fellow aircraft
mechanic Neal Hall to invent an automatic fire extinguishing system for clothes dryers. Hall, a volunteer fireman,
was aware of clothes dryer fires that had actually killed
people; so he and Shelby set out to devise a system that
could protect dryer users.
The result, which received a patent in 2006, consists of
a pressurized tank of dry chemical fire extinguishing agent
that is attached to the appliance. Copper tubing runs from
the extinguisher to the motor area. Soldered at the end of
the tubing is a low-temperature cap that melts off in the
event of fire, automatically releasing the pressurized extinguisher agent.
(Continued on Next Page)
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
Estimating Seed Loss
1) Count the number of seeds
within a one-square-foot area ahead of
the combine at several different sites
within the field.
2) Calculate header loss by counting the seeds within a square-foot area
behind the head and beneath the
combine. Then subtract the “standing
crop” loss.
3) The loss in combine separation
can be determined by counting the
seeds within a one-square-foot area
directly behind the rear of the combine. Subtract from that the shatter
loss and the header loss.
4) The count from directly behind
the combine will be concentrated, so
an adjustment must be made to equalize the loss across the entire width of
cut. The result should be divided by
this ratio:
Width of Header Cut (feet)
Width of Rear of Combine (feet)
o your sunflower seed loss levels
during harvest fall within the
“acceptable” or “excessive” range?
Losing 10 (filled) seeds per square foot
represents about 100 pounds per acre,
assuming that loss level is consistent
across the field.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid
some seed loss during harvest, of
course. Traditionally, 3% has been
considered a “permissible” loss level.
But harvesting extremely dry seeds
can drive up that number; so too can
excessive ground speed or a combine
that has not been set and/or adjusted
Here’s an easy way to estimate
sunflower seed loss levels at harvest,
as provided by North Dakota State
Hall and the Holens merged their experiences by applying the concept to the JD 9650 combine that Roger had
purchased following his fire experience. Roger educated
Below: Shelby Holen, Roger Holen and Neal Hall are shown
on Roger’s John Deere 9650 on which they installed an
automatic fire extinguishing system. Its red pressurized
chemical agent tank can be seen in the foreground. Roger’s
JD 9600 that caught fire in 2003 is in the background.
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
5) The result — i.e., the adjusted
separator loss for the width of cut —
must then be divided by 10 to determine the combine separator loss in
hundredweight per acre.
6) Total loss (cwt/ac) is arrived at
by adding up the seed loss in the
standing crop, the header loss, the
separator loss — and then dividing
that number by 10. The percentage of
loss can be determined by dividing
the total cwt/ac by the field’s final sunflower seed yield.
Shelby and Neal on the combine sites where fires were
likely to start. With the combine running, they measured
the temperature of those spots to determine the level of
heat sensitivity needed for the end caps of a fire extinguisher system fitted to the combine.
The pressurized 25-lb tank with dry fire extinguishing
agent is mounted behind the engine compartment. It’s
connected to copper tubing that extends to the exhaust,
the manifold, in front of the engine next to the fuel tank,
and by the driveline that runs through the hopper where
chaff can build up.
The good news is that Roger Holen has not had a combine fire since installing the automatic extinguishing system. But while the system has not yet been tested “under
fire” on a combine, he and its inventors are confident it
would perform as intended. It is suitable for use on any
model of combine, they add.
In the meantime, Shelby Holen and Neal Hall are
exploring marketing opportunities for their system. UL
approval is the next big hurdle, according to Shelby. “This
system can be adapted to almost anything,” he adds. For
example, a homeowner could connect a single pressurized
tank, via various lines, to the clothes dryer, the furnace ,
the hot water heater and any other heat-generating appliances in the utility room area.
Dry Is Good
(But Not Too Dry)
North Dakota Ag Engineer
Recaps Advice on Drying
Sunflower & Testing Moisture
ith North Dakota’s corn acreage having doubled
since 2002, it’s not surprising Ken Hellevang has
been getting considerably more phone calls on corn drying
and storage — and fewer on sunflower. But a lot of
Northern Plains sunflower seed still goes into on-farm storage after harvest, and the North Dakota State University
extension ag engineer says it remains a good idea for
‘flower producers to regularly review their drying and storage strategies. That’s especially true, he adds, given the
current levels of energy costs and commodity prices.
Some years ago, Hellevang published a table estimating
the energy costs for drying sunflower in a high-temperature
dryer. The highest propane price listed in that table was 90
Energy Requirements of a Conventional
Crossflow Dryer As a Function of
Dryer Air Temperature & Airflow Rate
cents per gallon; the highest fan electric rate was 7.71
cents per kilowatt hour; the highest electric heat rate, 3.86
cents per kWh. Today, the average gallon of propane
ranges between $1.80-$2.80. “Electric rates probably average around $0.07 per kWh, with a range of 0.06 to 0.09,”
Hellevang notes. The average electric heat rate in North
Dakota (off-peak basis) is around 0.03 per kWh. He
equates a $0.03 electric rate to $0.70 propane, while
$0.08 would rank with a $2.00 propane price.
Rather than printing more tables to keep up with everchanging propane costs, Hellevang developed a formula
that growers can use to easily calculate the cost of energy
required for drying sunflower seeds: Simply multiply the
per-gallon cost by 0.037. That will equal the dollars per
hundredweight of seed per point of moisture removed.
(For corn and wheat drying, he uses a factor of 0.022.)
With the ever-increasing size of farms, the days of the
standard free-standing batch dryer are long gone. The
capacity of many of today’s on-farm drying/storage systems
is equitable to that of some commercial elevators of a couple decades ago. “There are a lot of farmers buying [hightemperature] grain dryers that will dry 500 to 1,000
bushels of corn per hour,” Hellevang points out. “And for
many North Dakota farmers, a ‘small’ bin today is one 36
feet in diameter; a lot of 42- and 48-ft diameter bins have
gone up.”
Source: University of Nebraska
Energy Efficiency & Dryer Cleanliness
Regardless of dryer size, operating the unit for optimum
energy efficiency is more important than ever. And that
does not imply you’ll save money by lowering the drying
“A lot of people have the idea that if we turn down the
heat, it’s going to be more energy efficient — for example,
going from 200 degrees down to 150,” Hellevang says.
“Actually, it’s the opposite.” As shown in the figure at left,
the amount of energy required to dry corn in a conventional cross-flow dryer goes down as temperature increases.
It’s a similar story with sunflower. “So one thing that’s
going to make the most efficient use of energy is to run the
dryer at the maximum recommended temperature,” the
North Dakota ag engineer advises.
One concern with sunflower is its high oil content.
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
Growers obviously don’t want to dry at a temperature that
could impact the seeds’ oil quality. NDSU’s maximum recommended temperature for sunflower is 200 degrees in a
continuous flow dryer. “You’d have to get well above 200
before oil quality is affected,” Hellevang says. “But again,
if we’re running at just 150 or 160 degrees in a continuous
flow dryer, we’re sacrificing energy efficiency.”
Back in the 1980s, many sunflower producers tended to
lower drying temperature as a way to reduce the risk of
fires. Hellevang examined a number of insurance records
for units that had caught on fire while drying sunflower.
The records documented how the dryer was operated,
where the fire occurred and other relevant items. “I found
there was no correlation between drying temperature and
fires,” he recounts. “But there was a very definite correlation between fires and dryer cleanliness.”
That brings the North Dakota engineer to a point he has
emphasized for a long time: the critical importance of
good housekeeping with a high-temperature dryer — particularly when drying sunflower. As in a combine, the
accumulation of ‘fines’ coming off sunflower hulls and
sticking to a dryer poses a real fire threat. “We need to
keep that dryer clean,” Hellevang stresses. “Pay attention
to spots where seeds may get hung up. Make sure you get
a complete unload so we’re not leaving in seeds that then
become overdried.”
The downsides of overdrying are well known: First,
there’s the increased risk of fire; second, shrink loss if the
moisture falls below 10%; and third, the extra — and
unnecessary — energy costs incurred. “I tell farmers ‘you
lose two ways’ by overdrying,” Hellevang remarks. “You
spent the money to dry, and then you end up with less to
haul to market” than what the market pays for.
Natural Air / Low-Temp Drying
Natural air/low-temperature drying is, of course, utilized
successfully by many sunflower producers in lieu of a hightemperature system. It’s an especially good fit for High
Plains growers with their warmer and typically drier fall
conditions. But Northern Plains producers who tend to
harvest their sunflower a little earlier also reap the benefits
of a natural air system.
It doesn’t work well, however, for northern growers
who end up harvesting in late October or early November.
“I’ve frequently watched the pattern in North Dakota
where the sunflower is drying down and everything is looking great in early October; then we get some rain or snow
— and all of a sudden sunflower that was at 12 or 13%
moisture is now sitting at 20,” Hellevang observes.
“With a natural air system, sunflower at 15% is a ‘comfortable’ moisture level,” he adds. “When you get to 17%
or higher, you need a lot of air flow.” With oil-type sunflower at 17% moisture, “we really need an air flow rate of
1.0 cfm per bushel,” Hellevang advises. “Then you’re
looking at about 27 days of fan time (under ‘typical’ North
Dakota October conditions) to get it dried down. If you go
at 15%, I encourage growers to look at about 0.75 cfm per
bushel — and we’re still looking at about 30 days.”
It takes roughly double the fan horsepower to go from
0.75 cfm up to 1.0 — which is why Hellevang is not very
keen on natural air drying for sunflower that’s above 15%
moisture, especially later in the fall. “What works very
well in October doesn’t in November,” he states. “The earlier we can harvest and get that drying process started, the
more efficient we’ll be.”
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
Moisture Testers
Still waiting for that “magic bullet” when it comes to
eliminating the moisture rebound complication with sunflower seeds? So is everyone else.
“Even the expensive farm meters are still working off an
electrical measurement, and that measurement is very
much affected by where the moisture is within the seed,”
Hellevang explains. “It’s much more influenced by the
moisture near the surface; so the hull can indicate that the
sunflower seed is actually dry, whereas the true moisture is
“That’s where the rebound is coming from: it tends to
measure the hull and not the kernel.”
The near-infrared (NIR) testers found at commercial elevators minimize the difference; but the cost of such units
means the average farmer is not going to own one. So
Hellevang’s advice is quite similar to what it was 10 or 15
years ago:
1) Check the seed moisture with your meter, place the
sample in a sealed container, and then recheck it at least
12 hours later. By then the moisture will have equalized
throughout the seeds, and you’ll get an accurate reading.
2) Review your meter operator’s manual. “Understand
the degree of accuracy, understand the recommended testing procedures — and to get an accurate reading, I still
recommend that the sample be at the same temperature as
the meter.” If you have a cold sample and the meter is at
room temperature, “there will be some variability.” All
meters have a minimum temperature at which they’re
accurate, Hellevang adds. That information should be in
the operator’s manual.
3) When it comes to discounts, of course, the elevator’s
moisture reading is the one that really counts. “The easiest
way for the farmer to calibrate his own meter is to take a
sample, check it, take the same sample to the elevator,
check it there — and then compare the readings.”
Proper Sunflower Storage: The Basics
Editor’s Note: The following comments on proper storage of sunflower
are excerpted from the High Plains
Sunflower Production Handbook. As
such, they are reflective of the climactic conditions of eastern Colorado,
Kansas, southern Nebraska and adjacent areas. A few items have been
edited slightly to also pertain to the
Northern Plains production region.
• Clean the Storage Facility —
Thoroughly clean the facility, aeration
fan, ducts and the handling system by
removing trash and old grain, which
can harbor insects or fungi. Seal
cracks and crevices that can allow
insects, fungi or moisture to enter the
• Consider an Approved Bin
Treatment for Insects — Treat the
inside of the facility and beneath the
plenum floor with a residual spray for
insect control. Be sure the chemical is
registered for use with sunflower, and
follow label instructions closely.
• Clean Trashy Sunflower —
Sunflower stored with excessive trash,
florets, broken seeds, weed seeds or
other foreign material is more susceptible to fungi and insect problems.
Such trash normally is at a higher
moisture content and will cause heating. Cleaning the seeds also improves
airflow through the sunflower.
• Store at a Safe Moisture Content
— Sunflower should be stored at 10%
or less moisture if the plan is to market the crop within six months following harvest. Sunflower seeds held
through the spring or summer should
be at 8% or less for oil-types and 10%
or less for nonoils.
• Aeration Systems Are Key — An
aeration fan is meant to cool the sunflower seeds; it is not intended to be a
method of drying or moisture removal.
The target storage temperature is 20 to
40 degrees F., within 20 degrees of the
average coldest winter month. Fans
should be operated when the outside
air temperature is 10 to 20 degrees
Sunflower should be sampled
weekly until seed temperatures
are cooled to the winter storage
temperature. Then sample every
three to four weeks during the
winter — and weekly, if the
seeds are being held into the
spring and summer months.
less than the seed temperature.
Fans may run even during periods
of intermittent high humidity. They
can be turned off during rainy or
damp weather, however. A fan should
be covered after it is turned off.
• Check the Seed — Sunflower
should be sampled weekly until seed
temperatures are cooled to the winter
storage temperature. Then sample the
sunflower every three to four weeks
during the winter — and weekly, if the
seeds are being held into the warm
spring and summer months.
• Check the Sunflower, Not the
Bin — When sampling, probe the sunflower seed pile and be observant for
temperature, moisture, insect, fungi
and odor differences from the previous
inspection. If the probe is hot, take
immediate action.
Feel, smell or walk around the bin
and probe the sunflower seeds; don’t
just peer through a roof opening and
assume there is no storage problem.
It’s also a good idea to write down the
results of each inspection for future
• Act Quickly to Stabilize
Problems — Should a problem be
detected, try to stabilize it with aeration. If that fails, move the seeds to
market immediately, as the problems
Sunflower Harvest Supplement Aug/Sept 2008
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