Flowers’s grain harvesting operation includes two John Deere 9770 combines, with six-row corn headers, one Rol-Hopper system, grain carts, a John Deere 8270 tractor for hauling the hoppers, three grain trucks and 150,000 bushels of grain storage.

Flowers’ objective at corn harvest is the same as McKee’s — to keep combines running. “Usually, we’re going to have 100,000-plus bushels of corn at harvest that we can’t store on-farm. We try to take that grain to a local elevator with two or three of our grain trucks. That gets our contracts filled.”

At the same time, Flowers is hauling the grain hoppers to his bins. “Otherwise, there’s no way that three trucks can keep up with two combines. So we’re able to get our contracts filled, getting rid of the grain that we can’t store, while at the same time hauling the hoppers to the grain bin. We have enough hauling capacity to keep the combines going.”

At Flowers’s grain bin, the hauling trailer is tilted, and grain is dumped through a chute at one end of the hopper into the pit.

The objective for Flowers and McKee is to keep grain moving ahead of their combines. “Our No. 1 goal throughout harvest is to get grain out of the field and into some storage,” McKee said. “We do whatever we have to do to keep that combine running.”

But other factors do come into play. For example, the potential for dockage due to higher corn moisture levels corn may prompt Flowers to haul more corn to the grain bins than the elevator.

“The hopper system really pays for itself when we’re trying to go to both the elevator and the grain bins at the same time,” Flowers said.

Jason Ward, Extension associate in the Ag and Biological Engineering Department at Mississippi State University, has not researched the hopper system, but notes, “Conceptually, it makes sense. If the header of that combine is not full of grain, you’re not making money. The more you can keep that combine moving, the better off you’re going to be.”

Other solutions to alleviating logjams at grain include the use of grain bags. Ward is currently working on an in-depth study to research the potential for quality degradation in the bags. Results from the first year of the study will be available in several months.

 “We know grains are here and we don’t think they’re going anywhere,” Ward said. “We have to figure out how to manage (grain handling) in an emerging grain market. We have to get tools in people’s hands and let them figure it out. At Extension, we’re really taking it seriously to make sure these tools are evaluated and give the producers as much unbiased information as possible.”