This Could Be a Good Year for Stalk Smashers

CORN ILLUSTRATED: Healthy corn harvested late leaves a strong stalk stub.

Published on: Oct 29, 2013

Sideline companies were out in force at the Farm Progress Show this year showing off devices that mount on the back side of the cornhead to knock down stalk stubs after the combine rolls through. Some people planted late. Others applied fungicide that helped keep corn healthier longer. The result was good-yielding corn in many areas, but stalk stubs that were still healthy and strong enough to cause tire wear if not knocked down. The only exception as areas where drought stress in August caused plants to use up nutrients from the stalk to finish the kernels on the ear, leading to weak stalks, even without stalk disease.

Devices that smash the stubs and companies that make them are turning into a cottage industry. No less than four companies offered new or improved versions of existing products at the show. Some were products beefed up to last longer, because even stalk smashing devices wear out over time.

Smash the stalk: Heres just one model of stalk smashing devices on the market. The goal is to knock down stalk stubs where tires will run.
Smash the stalk: Here's just one model of stalk smashing devices on the market. The goal is to knock down stalk stubs where tires will run.

Tire manufacturers are also responding to the need for tougher tires that can withstand working in conditions where stalk stubs are tough. Many farmers over the past few seasons have reported tire damage from running over fields where stalks weren't knocked down after harvest.

Several tire companies are introducing increased flex or very high flex tires. The two types are usually designated as IF or VF. Some are designed for grain carts, others for other implements that will operate in the field, including tractor tires. The tires are designed to run at lower air pressures to create less compaction than tires running at regular air pressures. They're also designed to be stronger to hold up in tough conditions.

Some people only mount the stalk smashers on rows where other equipment tires will run. Some put them on the entire head. Expect to see this to continue as a growing product market as corn breeders improve stalk quality.