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I have a neighbor that wants me to harvest his sunflowers this fall. I have never done this and would like to get some tips.

I have heard that some guys take the gathering chains off of their cornheads. Is this necessary? I have a chopping cornhead; would this be a problem to try and chop the stalks while harvesting? I have a 9660STS with round bar concaves; is this sufficient to keep loss at a minimum? What is the optimum moisture? Any other tips would be helpful. Thanks.
 

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I've heard of guys that use Drapers. Flowers would be hard on one though. We used a customized row head. How many acres do you have to harvest?
~TREY~
 

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Keep the combine CLEAN! Sunflowers are notorious for causing combine fires. Keep several fire extinguishers on the combine and maybe a water truck on the field.

I have several customers that are running the Sunstar conversion on their corn heads with good results. Not cheap though. About $400 per row. http://www.goldenplains.com/sunstar/
 

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Ah, so you are entering the world of WEEDS
.....where do I begin.....

We use the Sunstar deck plates with our New Holland head with straight rolls....while the deck plates aren't cheap, you have to remember that you are getting dual use out of your corn head. There are some things you have to watch, but overall they aren't a bad option. The replaceable knife at the rear of the plate will dull and require sharpening or a new knife. If you sharpen them, you have to be careful not to grind away too much metal at the wide part, (near the end of the deck plate opening) or you will have problems with stalks wedging in the end of the deck plate due to the knife not being wide enough to cut them. This problem increases dramatically in excessively dry conditions. The final results are not always the cleanest looking (half standing, halfway shredded stalks), but your chopping head should take care of that.;) Oh, and sunflower stalks aren't near as tough as corn stalks, so wear on your chopping knives should be minimal. I have never heard of taking gathering chains off the cornhead, but I speculate you would end up with a lot of shattering losses with nothing to pull the stalk in.

We also own a set of "pans" for our straight head. http://www.gatesmfg.net/Product Pages/Quicktach.htm This is a pretty common design manufactured by many welding shops. Once again, you will have trouble with plugging in dry conditions. Cost would be lower than the deck plates, but not sure if you have a straight head, or if they can be adapted to a flex??? I believe our 25ft setup cost around $2000. Btw the stalks are heck on belts.

The harvest crew I worked for last year uses Milo guards on their draper heads, but we didn't cut any weeds last year so I'm not sure exactly how well that really works. The foreman claimed they had some problems with plugging, which I could believe. He also said although they left the reels on, they just had them raised up, out of the way all the time. The stalks just get caught and wrap around them.

A lot of guys around here use the old John Deere All Crop Heads, and they work great...this is the Cadillac option, if you can find one and don't mind maintaining it. Some guys make guards out of expanded metal to put on the backs and sides to keep stray heads in. There is also a head manufactured in North Dakota called the Sunmaster. http://www.sheyennemfg.com/index.php?p=header It's basically a simplified All-Crop design, with a few additions that make it great for sunflowers. It's pretty spendy though, about $75,000 for a 12R30.

With any of these options, the drier you let them get, the worse the shattering losses will get. Pans do a decent job of combatting this since they're placed to catch loose seeds. The Sunstar is probably the worst as far as shattering losses go....the All-Crops do ok, the corrugated gathering belts that grip the stalk really help a lot.

We run large wire concaves with the small grains sieves in our TRs....Round bar concaves would probably work, large wire would be better though unless they're going to be really dry. We don't generally cut anything over 11% to put in the bin.

Sunflowers create a very fine, flammable dust that sticks to everything! We've only had two minor fires with our canaries, but watch out with your Deere. They are notorious for attracting dust and catching fire.....a lot of people think it has something to do with the electrostatic paint method they use, but I can't say for sure. We always drag a chain to help get rid of the static electricity.(sunflowers supposedly create a lot of static going through the combine) Most everyone else I know does it as well. Not sure if it really helps, but you don't have much to lose. We had another guy with his 9660STS helping us at home last year, and that combine was like a raging fireball. Once again, dust stuck everywhere, a lot of times he blew it off every 3-4 rounds. It usually caught on fire 2-3 times a day when it got really dry. He eventually got a 1000 gal. nurse tank from the Co-op and and filled it with water and two jugs of downy (to get rid of the static), washing the combine off a couple times a day. This seemed to help some. His combine was a 2005, I've heard the dust problem get's a lot better on the newer ones with the big air intake scoop. Like greentech said, do everything you can to keep it clean!
 
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