Four years ago, Gary Kruggel of Winthrop, MN, tired of watching corn ears bounce out of his used John Deere 643 corn head and back onto the ground. For Kruggel, those ears represented money he should have banked in the bin.

Soon he'd fashioned a low-cost attachment that guided his corn toward the bin, not back onto fields. Kruggel's cure was to cut a 55-gal. plastic drum into three pieces and attach them together over the feeder house, using one-inch tubular steel and two self-tapping screws. The parts cost him less than $10 in supplies, but they have saved countless ears.

“The ears now hit the plastic barrels and fall back into the combine head,” says Kruggel. “They don't get tossed out onto the ground like they did before.”

Kruggel says he's seen other farmers attach flat panels over a corn head feeder house to save ears. However, these tend to collect crop residue.

“Flat panels need to be cleaned off fairly often, but my barrels don't,” says Kruggel. “Since the barrels are curved, there is no place for residue to stick to, and the stalks and leaves just roll off.”

Saving ear corn from field loss has been a specialty for Harold Barton, Silver Lake, MN. Barton is the patent holder for an invention called the Corn Shield, which is designed to stop ears from being tossed or bounced over the end row units on corn heads. The shields fit both John Deere and Case IH headers.

Barton says the Corn Shield attachments allow him to efficiently combine corn when ears hang loosely due to wind, hail or corn borer damage or from other conditions that might stress the plant or cause ears to loosen. He says any loosely hanging ears tend to fly off the stalk and over end rows at harvest. The shields stop ear loss, and even allow him to combine diagonally across fields, he adds.

“With Corn Shields, farmers can plant with any size planter and harvest with any size corn head,” says Barton. “They also work on twin-row corn.”

Most recently, GVL, Inc., Litchfield, MN, was marketing Barton's corn shields, but the patent is on the verge of being sold and Barton says he's not sure which company will market it next.

Barton says he's also familiar with the ear bounce problems that sometimes occur on older model John Deere corn heads. Many times, he says, simply removing the rubber paddles on the corn-head auger will stop the ears from bouncing off the head and onto the ground. Newer models don't have the paddles that cause the problem, he adds.

Other companies and individuals have also devised special heads and attachments to save corn and money. These include Polytin in Rock Valley, IA, which sells kits for shielding end rows and center-row dividers that are designed to reduce ear loss. Geringhoff's U.S. Division, Willmar, MN, makes a Rota Disc corn head that is marketed to save time and money by chopping corn stalks and picking ears in a single pass. Another alternative is a narrow-row, single-chain corn head invented by Marion Calmer, a farmer from Alpha, IL, who says it gobbles up less crop residue and loses less grain during separation from the cob.