MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Last year, Minnesota corn farmers harvested 1.386 billion bushels of corn, just second to Iowa. It’s big business — about $9.2 billion — that has farmers working around the clock from mid-September through October to get the corn out of the ground before the first big snow.

On Thursday, farmer Peter Leuer said he went to bed at 1 a.m. and was back in the fields a little after 5 o’clock in the morning.

“In another month, this corn should be done, if it takes that long,” he said, from his family farm in Corcoran.

His farm has two combines, so he helped explained how they work to be able to answer WCCO viewer Don’s Good Question: How do farmers get the corn off the stalk?

“You’ve got to drive on the row exactly,” he said.

Each stalk has only one or two cobs of corn, depending on its genetic makeup.

The head of the combine pushes through the corn field and grabs the stalks from the ground. The stalk is then forced through a small area where the corn cob pops off, along with much of the husks. Chains then push those cobs into the combine.

When the corn enters the combine, it’s fed up into a cylinder, which turns the piece of corn, forcing the kernels loose. The kernels are then filtered through a sieve.

“Everything has to grab something and push something to make it work,” Leuer said.

After that, the kernels travel to the top of the combine through a small elevator while the rest of the cob and husks are tossed out the back.

“They come out with force,” Leuer said. “They can hurt.”

At Leuer farm, based in Greenfield, they can combine 60 to 80 acres of corn a day.


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