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Corn Harvesting and Drilling Equipment

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Agricultural Equipment

The use of corn harvesting and drilling equipment, such as corn huskers, shellers, binders, harvesters, pickers, and drills has come a long way since the early days of horse-drawn carts, sickles, and reapers. Now fully mechanized, preparing and harvesting corn, among other vegetables and grains, has become faster, more efficient, and less arduous to the farmer.

Corn equipment can be divided into several categories depending on their function, including:

  • Cutting or snapping to remove corn
  • Drilling and planting to produce corn

Contents

[edit] History

Harvesting corn has been an American livelihood as far back as at least the 18th century. The early methods employed by farmers required many hours and substantial manpower to complete the backbreaking work. It is no surprise that agricultural manufacturers would work so hard to produce devices, attachments, and machinery that would improve the tasks.

[edit] Cutting and Removing Corn

One of the most difficult tasks for farmers was the harvesting of corn. The hoe was the first tool used for cutting corn in the 1800s. Sickles were devices that cut off corn at the top of the stalk once the fertilization process had taken place. One early method involved implanting a pole into the ground and fitting it with horizontal arms. The cornstalks were positioned around the pole, forming a shock. When the arms of the pole were taken off, the stalks were compressed.

At the end of the 1800s, another method became popular. It involved forming a saddle against the top of four hills and cutting the stalks of corn from a pile set in an upright shock. Different types of corn knives were manufactured to cut the corn.

The grain binder, however, prompted pioneers to try their hand at a similar machine for corn harvesting. After the 1870s, there were many attempts to develop such a device. The first involved a horse-drawn stalk cutter that consisted of sled-like implements mounted on a set of wheels that also carried knives set an angle proficient for cutting corn. Men stood on the platform and grabbed armfuls of corn as the cutter sled cut the corn. This type of harvester was effective at the time and could cut up to eight acres (3.2 ha) a day. Its use extended well into the 20th century.

Different types of cutters were also experimented with. The sled cutter was the most common and was fastened atop a set of wheels and led by a horse. It could cut two rows at a time but required two men to operate it. When the cutter advanced, it grasped the corn and cut it with knives. After a bundle was collected, the horse stopped and carried the corn away.

This machine evolved into a harvester with a screw about 10 inches (25.4 cm) in diameter and set at an angle of 45 degrees from the ground. The harvester operated by rotating the screw, a movement that collected and cut corn. Although it was effective, it wasn’t an overly successful method.

The first mechanical corn harvester was built by D.M. Osborne Co. of Auburn New York in 1890. The harvester was a two-wheeled, horse-drawn machine. On display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, it could cut corn and load it into a wagon beside the machine.

Cyrus McCormick invented a corn binder that was pushed by horses. In 1893, his company, Deering Harvester Co., produced several versions of corn binders and its machines inspired other manufacturers in the 1900s to experiment with developing and manufacturing better agricultural equipment. McCormick later went on to establish one of the most successful agricultural manufacturing businesses in the world, Case IH. The difference to corn harvesting equipment was huge. With the use of a machine, about seven acres (2.8 ha) of corn could be harvested every day, whereas the use of a knife would involve considerable manpower just to harvest a bundle.[1]

[edit] Corn Huskers and Shredders

The act of removing the outer leaves or covering of corn is known as corn husking. In the southern states, it was also known as shucking. The act of husking or shucking used to involve the entire community. As Edward Hazen described of corn husking in his 1837 book, Panorama: “When corn has become ripe, the ears with the husks, and sometimes the stalks, are deposited into large heaps. To assist in stripping the husks from the ears, it is customary to call together the neighbors.”

Manufacturers eventually developed a husking glove that was made of specially designed leather and used for husking pegs. This patent was popular from 1860 to 1880.

By the 1920s, corn husking was a sport, with as many as 40,000 people participating in 1932’s National Competition in Henry County, Illinois. The winner left-handedly husked 45 ears within a minute. [2]

[edit] Corn Shellers

Corn shellers, a device that removes kernels from corncobs, first appeared in the form of a horizontal iron bar mounted on a box. Sometimes a shovel with an inverted edge was used to pry the dry ear off of corn. Another tool was a mallet, used to force the ear through a fixture that would remove the kernel so it would fall into a box.

By the 1840s, a more evolved corn sheller was invented. It comprised a metal-toothed cylinder and a disk-type corn sheller. Early brand names of corn shellers included Clinton Burral and Harrison. By the 1890s, this type of equipment was available with steam power.[3]

[edit] Corn Pickers

A man known as Quincy invented the first corn picker in 1850. Shortly after this invention, William Watson, from Chicago, also developed a corn picker and manufactured it around 1874. Although it was not patented for another 10 years, it was a breakthrough in corn harvesting equipment. [4]

Corn pickers didn’t become widely used until the early 1900s and were one of the last agricultural machines to really advance. Part of the slow development resulted from manufacturers’ desire to build a machine that would minimize the hard labor involved. However, in doing so, many potential inventors lost a lot of money trying to develop a device that would only prove unsuccessful. It was also in part because corn binders were more popular.

[edit] Combination of Picker and Husker

By 1905 there were two machines available: the corn picker and the corn husker. These machines were combined into one by the 1920s. The combination machine could harvest corn by snapping the ears from the stalks and husking them clean. [5]

After the 1930s, corn pickers were attached via power take-off and mounted on a tractor. The first self-propelling picker appeared in the 1950s. [6]

[edit] Planting and Furrowing

[edit] Weeder

The weeder was a device used for stirring soil after corn had been planted. The spike-tooth harrow as also used for this but the weeder, with its fine teeth, was quite effective in stirring the soil and removing weeds. The weeder was practical in that its design prevented it from destroying corn crops in the stirring process. However, it worked best on corn crops that were several inches high, and was most effective when used later in the day, as the early morning hour tended to make plants more brittle and prone to breakage.

The modern-day weeders have been revamped with wheels, making it easier to turn them and control their depth.

[edit] Corn Planter

The corn planter has long since evolved from the hand planter or jobber device of its former days. The old method was known as the horse planter and involved a man driving the planter while another man drove alongside, dropping corn seeds into the rows. The modern machine has since replaced these types with its cumulative drop check row planter, which is used all over the world. [7]

[edit] Spike-tooth Harrow

The spike-tooth harrow was a machine used for stirring soil after the planting of spring crops, such as corn and potatoes.

[edit] Corn Drills

The primitive corn drill came in the form of a seed box mounted on a frame with wheels. It employed a drive-to-the-seed metering mechanism. The operation involved gears or chains and sprockets, and deposited seeds at varying rates. When the rows were ready, seeds would make their way through a plastic, rubber, or metal tube into the coulter assembly and then drilled into a row. The drill would further facilitate the deposit of the corn seeds by cutting grooves into the soil. [8]

[edit] Features/Types/How it Works

[edit] Corn Pickers

Corn pickers can be divided into three types of machinery. The first employed a snapping mechanism that removed the ears of the corn stalks without removing the husks. This type of machine was known as the snapper.

Many corn harvesting machines included a husker attachment, which was similar to the snapper in that it snapped the ears of the stalk, but it also removed the husk. This machine was known as the picker-husker.

The most recently developed machine is one that snaps corn and shells it while in the field. This is known as the picker sheller. The picker sheller can be tractor-mounted and pulled. When mounted by tractor or pulled, it can easily be attached to and detached from the machine. Using the tractor requires additional time to mount the machine, and some machines take longer than others to mount the picker sheller. Some combines consist of an eight-row corn head attachment in which the ears are driven into a threshing cylinder and shelled. The shelled corn makes its way through a cleaning unit and ends up in a grain tank while the husks and cob pass over a straw rack. A good operation can yield 3,000 to 4,000 bushels of corn a day. There is also the self-propelled corn picker sheller, but it is not widely used.

[edit] Corn Drills

Corn drills consist of either an internal force feed type or an external one. The internal force feed type involves 12 to 15 metering units located on the bottom of a seed box that passes through the feed disks in the shaft. The feed disks comprise sharp teeth, all of which are different. As the seed makes its way through the shaft, it is carried between the teeth from the seed box and falls down the coulter as each disk is turned.

The external force feed type comprises a fluted roller that is driven through a hollow casting of a shaft. Seed travels down the flute and grooves are cut into the soil as the roller turns. [9]

There are different types of coulters used for corn drills, including:

  • Disk coulters
  • Suffolk coulters
  • Combine drills

The disk coulter is best used for soil-dominant environments. It is used to efficiently furrow the land and drill rows for seeds deposit. While it can work through surface trash, it struggles in stony formations. Also, it is more expensive than the Suffolk coulter and does not always furrow in a straight line, although it does have a longer life expectancy

The Suffolk coulter can drill straight lines and is useful for drilling root crops. Because of its ability to work in different soil beds, it is prone to soil abrasion and wears out faster than disk coulters.

The combine drill is a modern day combination type of drill comprising a fertilizer box that attaches itself to the drill frame. It consists of metering units, which feed fertilizer, either together or separately, from the seeds down tubes and through the coulter assembly.[10]

[edit] Common Manufacturers

[edit] References

  1. Ramsower, Harry C. Farm Equipment and How to Use it. Lyons Press: Guildford, 2001.
  2. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery 1630-1930. Krause Publications: Iola, 2003.
  3. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery 1630-1930. Krause Publications: Iola, 2003.
  4. Smith, Harris Pearson and Wilkes, Lambert Henry. Farm Machinery and Equipment. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1976.
  5. Barlow, Ronald Stokes. 300 Years of Farm Implements and Machinery 1630-1930. Krause Publications: Iola, 2003.
  6. Smith, Harris Pearson and Wilkes, Lambert Henry. Farm Machinery and Equipment. McGraw-Hill: New York, 1976.
  7. Ramsower, Harry C. Farm Equipment and How to Use it. Lyons Press: Guildford, 2001.
  8. Shippen, J.M. and Ellin, C.R. and Clover, C.H. Basic Farm Machinery. Pergamon Press: New York, 1980.
  9. Shippen, J.M. and Ellin, C.R. and Clover, C.H. Basic Farm Machinery. Pergamon Press: New York, 1980.
  10. Shippen, J.M. and Ellin, C.R. and Clover, C.H. Basic Farm Machinery. Pergamon Press: New York, 1980.