Spring planting is upon us, and whether you’ve considered it or not, your fall harvest last year has an impact on several planting performance factors. While fall harvest tends to focus on yields, grain quality, and rotor loss (or lack of losses if you’re using Kondex concaves), the residue left on the field until spring is either helping or hurting your planting season for those following no-till or strip-till practices. Let’s dive deep into how improving your residue management can benefit planting.
A basic understanding of crop residue is that it contains various nutrients – primarily nitrogen and potassium. The amount may vary from crop to crop and among stalks versus leaves, but as the residue breaks down, these nutrients are returned to the soil where they’ll benefit subsequent crops. With this in mind, the speed at which the residue breaks down matters. The smaller the particle, the more exposed it is to microbial effects. And while some factors in decomposition are out of our control, the size and spread of the crop residue are within our grasp. This is the result of the straw choppers on your combine.
The problem with most straw chopper blades is that they deliver inconsistent results. This is evidenced by the post-harvest residue. Look behind a combine using standard chopper blades and you’re likely to find significant amounts of long stems, as well as large clumps of residue. Not only will this take longer to break down (slowing the return of nutrients to the soil), but it’s also going to cause plugging on your planter’s row cleaner and/or closing wheels. As the stems wrap around these wheels, they’ll stop rolling and start dragging through the soil to decrease your efficiency. Inconsistent residue can also impact your planting depth and subsequently the evenness of your crop emergence.
Above: Drop pan samples behind combines running
traditional chopper blades (left) versus Straw Claw
chopper blades (right) in high-moisture soybeans
Above: The passes labeled Kondex were cut with
Straw Claw chopper blades, where you can see the
residue has an even spread and size, contrasting the pass
labeled Traditional where the wheat residue is clumpy
and unevenly distributed
Kondex Straw Claw® chopper blades are revolutionizing residue management. Their stay-sharp design delivers greater consistency in cut size throughout the life of the blade. And with evenly sized residue comes an even distribution onto the field. These benefits are gained from our patented wear protection additive that controls the wear characteristics. Our laser cladding pattern pushes the wear point to occur between the cladding lines, which prompts a self-serrating property. This also minimizes breakage and chipping, and in turn, delivers better rotor balance.
Above: Used Straw Claw blades on a John Deere combine
(left) and Case IH combine (right) show the self-serrating
pattern created by Kondex's patented laser cladding
application, with a sample of the crop residue shown in
the center image
Let’s revisit crop residue returning nutrients to the soil. While tilling your field is a quick way to ensure nutrients get back into the land, there are a multitude of benefits prompting upward trends for no-till or strip-till systems. For these farmers, this nutrient return is critical – especially with increased fertilizer costs. Improving your residue management with our Straw Claw chopper blades may not eliminate your fertilizer usage, but it can help lower the amount needed to put some money back in your pocket.
Lastly, let’s talk about how not fun it is to change your straw chopper blades. To maintain your rotor balance, it’s never as simple as changing one blade – one broken or dull cutting edge means you’re changing multiple knives (dependent on your combine make/model). By controlling the wear characteristics and better maintaining rotor balance, Straw Claw chopper blades offer minimized maintenance.
As you’re planting, pay attention to your residue conditions. If you see signs of plugging or depth inconsistencies, take the time to upgrade your straw chopper blades before harvest season. The below links can help identify which blade will fit your combine or put you in touch with a Kondex combine expert – we look forward to helping you.