Picking Corn

Harvesting Corn

Harvesting corn is much more difficult than harvesting wheat and small grains. The stalks are tough and clog up machines. In addition, corn has to be very dry to be stored safely, and drying bins hadn’t been developed in the 30s. Most farmers harvested late in the year when the crop had dried out on the stalk. Most harvested by hand or used a mechanical picker. The ears were broken off the stalk and the husk removed. Then corn was stored on the ear until it was shelled and sold later.

corn picking


Yet technological innovation continued.

In 1930, the Gleaner-Baldwin Harvester Company marketed the first corn combine that efficiently harvested the crop. It could be pulled by a 15- to 30-horsepower tractor and was able to pick up roughly 90 to 95 percent of the corn from the field. But the machine cost $1,675 – a princely sum in the Depression, and the problem of storing high moisture corn remained. The company floundered.

It was not until after World War II that better machines and new drying bins made the corn combine widely popular and more affordable.

Written by Bill Ganzel of the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.

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