What is That? – Combine Heads

At harvest, farmers use a combine to pick corn and cut soybeans. The combine is the main harvesting machine that powers through the county’s top crops from September through November.

On the front of the combine is an attachment known as the head. The head is powered by the PTO (power take-off) of the combine. The combine comes with two different heads – one for harvesting soybeans and another for field corn – due to the differences in the plants.

Because today’s heads are quite wide (about the width of a road), farmers load the head on a trailer and transport it to their fields. The head is then attached to the machine.

Soybean Head

This head is a reel type used to harvest soybeans (and wheat). The reel rotates around and feeds the soybeans plants into the head. The oscillating sickles in the front of the head cut the plants. Plants are fed into the combine which removes the soybeans from the plants and pods and feeds the soybeans into the grain tank of the combine. The width of the soybean head is much wider than the combine and can range from 16 feet to 45 feet.

Corn Head

The corn head has pointed snouts which go between the rows of corn. Rotating rolls within the head pull the corn plant down and snap the ear off the stalk. The ear of corn is fed into the machine for processing into kernels of corn which are held in the grain tank of the combine. Corn heads can vary in size from 6 rows to as many as 16 rows. The width of the head is based on the number of rows, from 15 feet to 40 feet.