Tool turns heads
Ireland Brothers, Martin, S.D., is making the most of no-till by using stripper heads on its combines.
The Shelbourne Reynolds heads have increased their wheat combining capacity and improved yields in the following crops, especially in dry years, says Brent Ireland, who farms with his father, Sam, and uncle, Roy.
• Ireland Brothers uses stripper heads to combine wheat.
• Stripper heads leave straw standing in the field.
• Stripper heads increase combine capacity.
Stripper head success
A stripper head strips the kernels from the wheat head without taking the whole head or any straw into the combine. The stalks remain upright and attached to the soil.
The Irelands bought their first stripper head in 2001 after a hailstorm damaged some of their ripe wheat fields. They had heard a stripper head would pick up the heads on the bent stalks. It worked as advertised.
They then used the combine with the stripper head and a combine with a rigid straight-cut head to harvest their undamaged wheat. The two combines ran side by side and left alternating swaths of stripped and straight-cut stubble.
The next year, they planted chickpeas and corn on those acres. It was a dry year, and when heat stress set in, the crop in the stripped swaths looked much better than the crop in the straight-cut swaths. Apparently, the stripped stubble had caught more snow, which increased the amount of moisture in the soil.
“The difference was very clear,” Brent says.
A stripper head offers some benefits when conditions are wet, too. There is no chopped-up straw left on the surface after harvest to float and pool together during a heavy rain.
Also, the soil in stripped stubble seems to dry out faster than soil covered by a mat of residue.
No planting trouble
Stripped fields are usually easy to plant, Brent says. “Nothing is perfect. There are some conditions where the tall straw can create problems, but for the most part, it’s less of an issue than having matted straw to plant through.”
One drawback to a stripper head is that it can’t harvest all crops. The Irelands have a flex head for soybeans and garbanzo beans, a corn head for corn, an all-crop head for sunflowers and stripper heads for wheat.
But Brent says stripper heads have been a good investment.
“They’ve helped us make the most of no-till,” he says.
This article published in the March, 2012 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.