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Farmers struggling with wheat harvest PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:28 AM


Ag Educator


Putnam County


With rain occurring in 10 of the last 16 days, wheat harvest is progressing slowly this year. With nearly perfect conditions for wheat growing (cool temperatures, plenty of moisture, low disease), wheat yields and wheat quality were expected to be outstanding. However, wheat is being lost in the field and the quality is quickly declining. With high humidity and continued rain, the wheat is starting to sprout or even drop out of the heads, causing both a decrease in quality and in yield.

Last year, due to the drought and high temperatures, most wheat was harvested by July 1. This year, the good growing conditions had farmers hoping for 85 to 100 bushel wheat, but now the rain is making it difficult to harvest. Most wheat was planted late last year, so the wheat stalks are shorter than normal which will also reduce straw production.

Wheat straw is in short supply, so farmers may be able to get higher prices for straw if they can get both the wheat for grain and the straw harvested on time.

Ed Lentz, Hancock Extension Educator, advises farmers to try to get the wheat harvest as soon as possible and before Monday. Generally, grain elevators do not accept sprouted wheat due to quality and storage issues. If you have livestock, sprouted wheat may be fed but it heats up fast and spoils quickly.

Rutgers University says: “Where large amounts of rain fall, getting combines into the field may be difficult. Where fields are passable, grain may be mature but high in moisture. It is important to get wheat out of the field quickly after the kernels have matured to avoid loss of yield, reduced quality and ultimately sprouting in the heads. Combines operate most efficiently and with less kernel damage when grain moisture is between 13-20 percent. If wheat is harvested much above 14 percent it needs to be dried relatively quickly to prevent sprouting in storage. Wheat is harder to dry than corn because of the high humidity this time of the year and because it packs tighter than corn thus grain depths in the bin need to shallower or fan speeds/volumes greater.”

Purdue University says: “Farmers who plan to harvest or already have binned wet wheat need to pay close attention to some specific handling and drying skills to prevent spoilage and loss of quality. Unheated air drying in a bin equipped with a drying fan and fully perforated floor is limited to grain moistures of 16-18 percent. A maximum of no more than 20 percent may be dried without adding heat, if stirrers are available.

The fan should be turned on as soon as the bin floor is covered and it should be run CONTINUOUSLY day and night, rain or shine, until the grain moisture in the upper layers is below 15 percent. The higher the temperature and the lower the relative humidity, the drier the wheat will become. Soft wheat will reach lower moistures given the same air conditions than hard wheat. Once the moisture content drops below 15 percent, the ambient air loses its drying potential and the fan should operate only during the “good” part of the week. To reach the desirable moisture content of 13 to 14 percent, fan operation between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. usually succeeds in most parts of Ohio and Indiana.

Heat is required for wheat moistures above 20 percent. Drying should be accomplished fairly rapidly to reduce the risk of mold development and subsequent spoilage. To be safe, a two to three foot deep batch in a bin should be dried with two to five cfm/bu to 14 percent in 24 hours. No more than three to 20 degrees Fahrenheit should be added as a heat source.

In a bin drying system, the difference between moving air through corn versus wheat is significant. For the same airflow per bushel, wheat can be filled only 60 percent as deep as corn. Thus, 10 feet of wheat is equivalent to 16 feet of corn in terms of resistance to airflow. As a rule of thumb, a bin filled with 10 feet of wheat will require one horsepower of fan capacity per 1000 bushels of grain to deliver one cubic foot of air for every bushel of wheat. Thus, a 30-foot diameter bin filled to 10 foot with 5,600 bu of wheat would require a 5.5-HP fan.” For more information, see Purdue’s fact sheet on Drying Wheat to Prevent Spoilage and Sprouting.


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