Row By Row / December 2023

Every Kernel Counts — That’s Why Ag PhD Research Counts on Drago

This article was originally published in Ag PhD magazine. Photo credit: Ag PhD

Ag research uncovers the information farmers need to form strategies and make investment decisions that impact their bottom lines. Naturally, having accurate results in yield data at the end of the season is of utmost importance.

Every corn grower wants to harvest the most yield possible, but the corn head technology most growers use today isn’t good enough for Glenn Herz, Ag PhD Research Lead.

Along with evaluating equipment, crop protection, and managing the Ag PhD Field Day site, Herz spends each fall harvesting, evaluating, and collecting data on hybrid strip plots across the Upper Midwest.

“Our hybrid data collection relies on getting the most yield the most consistent way possible,” he says.

Drago GT corn head

His corn head of choice is a Drago GT, featuring deck plates that automatically self-adjust to stalks in each row unit across the corn head. Other brands rely on “user-dependent” hydraulic deck plates.

“Adjusting deck plates is just something I don’t have to think about as I move through the field,” Herz says.

Other yield-saving features on the Drago head include the industry’s lowest profile to capture dropped ears, out-front gathering chains that secure and setup stalks, plus low-velocity knife rollers and cushioned deck plates that reduce ear bounce and butt shelling.

Seeing the diffference

“I became familiar with the Drago brand at a former company and really liked how that head saved yield,” Herz says. “When I joined Ag PhD, I could see that even the older Drago I had used before performed much better than the newer head they had.

“I was concerned the yield loss would affect our trial work and requested a Drago. Once our guys saw how the Drago worked, it didn’t take a lot of convincing.”

Herz harvests yield trials with a four-row Drago GT paired with a 5130 Case IH. “The Case works for me because I’m trying to stay within a ten-foot width, which limits what I can use.”

A huge advantage

Herz says he harvests test strips within a 250 mile, fivestate radius around Baltic, South Dakota.

“We look at so many different hybrids. As you can imagine, we’ll see everything from an 83-day hybrid to a 116-day SmartStax, as well as field situations with 300+ bu. irrigated corn to 60 bu. drought-stricken corn. We have hybrid variation, with tall, narrow types to hybrids with a lot more girth, and we often see a wide range of harvest moisture as we go through the plots.

“The self-adjusting deck plates are a huge advantage because I know they are where they need to be rather than having to anticipate what is going through. I can concentrate on what the hybrid looks like as it’s coming into the head rather than wondering if my deck plates are adjusted properly.

Those adjustable deck plates are just really something.

“I mean, take this year with the extreme drought and stress that the crop has been under,” Herz continues. “You go into the lower areas where you may have better ground and 220-250 bu. corn. And yet on the hilltops, I’m barely at 100. The ears are not the same size, so how would I adjust the deck plates on the hilltop compared to the bottom?

“If you were looking at it, you wouldn’t see anything different. The Drago does the adjusting for you.”

You need to see it

And when it comes to the QuadSuspension – a feature with “shock absorbers” under the deck plates to cushion ear impact and reduce ear and kernel loss, Herz says, “You need to see it operate.”

“With a four-row head, everything is right smack-dab infront of you, and you just don’t see an ear bounce out of the head. It just doesn’t happen anymore. I don’t have the shelling like I had with the other heads, either. It’s pretty amazing.”

The best harvest option

Herz says that growers face the same harvest challenges and needs he does, only on a larger scale. They have different hybrids, different soil types, different moistures, and Mother Nature is often uncooperative.

“The Drago corn head is just another example of the benefits of automation in today’s agriculture,” Herz says. “It takes away that user error – it does the work for you and helps make harvest a lot better. Drago is the best corn head option I’ve seen. Period.”