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We are in a farmer's field in Lincoln County, Kansas to watch the
harvest. It is late October and you can see the plants have dried.
This farmer did not use a chemical desiccant to dry the plants--Mother
Nature took care of it by way of several frosts. In comparison, on
October 7 our field still had some green left in the plants when we
harvested, but remember we wanted to plant wheat as soon as we could.
We can see these plants are very dry. I'm surprised there is very little seed shattering. There is good weed control in this field because I don't see any weeds. Also, did you notice there is virtually no plant lodging? That means there are very few stem weevils around, which means this farmer used an insecticide to limit insect damage.
Based on what you know about which direction the heads face, what direction are we looking right now? Well, if you said north, you are correct. Even though the heads are bending downward, they are still facing the east.
The farmer has started harvesting, so we'll take a look at various aspects of the harvest operation. This is a John Deere combine with a 30' long header. You can't really see the header in this picture, but the header is in front of the combine and takes plants into the combine. Let's look at the next picture.
This picture is looking down in front of the combine from inside the cab. From this picture you can see the header. The reel with its metal fingers, is the long cylinder running across the picture and as it turns it pulls the sunflower heads into the combine. Below the reel are long, pointy, black pans that prevent any heads or seeds from being lost. Notice there's a space between each of the pans-- that allows the plants to pass between the pans. Let's get a side view of the header.
the side view of the header. You can see the plants between the pans and as
the combine moves forward and the reel turns the plant heads will be clipped
off and pulled inside the combine. Inside the combine the seeds will
threshed or separated from the head.
the combine drives away from us, you can see the dust and plant materials
being blown out the back of the combine. The seeds are stored in the
grain bin in the upper, middle part of the combine and when the bin is full
the seeds will be unloaded onto a truck or grain cart.
Here you can see the seeds are being unloaded into a semi-trailer. The long, green arm is an auger that moves the grain from the combine's bin out into the truck. After the bin is empty, the farmer will start cutting (harvesting) again and this routine will continue until the field is completely harvested.
When farmers sell their sunflower crops they get paid on how many pounds of seed they harvest. How many pounds of seed do you think this field yielded? It was a very good field, especially for the weather conditions we had this year. Well, this field produced more than 2,000 pounds per acre. (An acre is 43,560 square feet.) Anything over 2,000 pounds per acre is a rather good yield. Actually, I'm impressed (and a bit jealous) because our field only produced 1,000 pounds per acre.