If you’re a farmer, you know that wheat is one of the biggest commodities in the world. It’s right up there with metals, energy, and minerals.
Why is wheat such a huge commodity? Mostly because it’s the main ingredient in the world’s most basic food – bread.
That’s why it’s vital that you get the highest yield from your wheat grain harvest.
Are there ways to improve your wheat grain harvest?
Yes. And we’ve got some tips here – both for the grain harvest and for storing it.
1. Get a lay of the land
You’ve got to size up your crop. And that means getting out into the fields and monitoring for harvest readiness.
Be aware of the following:
- Maturity occurs at about 40% moisture.
- Wheat can dry 2.5% per day between 20% and 40% moisture.
- After the crop matures, it can quickly reach 20% moisture
Once that grain has reached 20%, you need to have a harvest plan in place.
2. Know your moisture content
Moisture content of the wheat grain is the most crucial factor for determining when it’s time to harvest. And when the moisture level hits somewhere between 20% and 14%, that wheat is ready.
Jumping the gun and harvesting above 20% could cause harvest damage to the kernels and test weights to be lower while making the grain harder to store.
Waiting until less than 14% could result in an increase in lodging and cutterbar losses, a decline in test weights, and weeds that have grown tall enough to interfere with the harvest.
Some experts recommend harvesting at the 18% to 20% range and artificially drying the grain. This allows for earlier double-drop planting, achieves maximum wheat yields, and maintains the quality of the grain.
3. Inspect your feeder house
The feeder house is often overlooked. But it shouldn’t be because it serves a crucial role in presenting the crop to the threshing cylinder rotor.
In other words, it’s not just a matter of whatever comes in the machine. It’s how it comes in because that’s going to be the way it travels through the entire machine.
So if the feeder house adjustment is faulty and the wheat comes in bunches, then it’s also going to be threshed in bunches and go out the back of the machine in bunches.
All of this equals losses. So you’ll want to:
- Replace any slats and chains that are broken, bent, or worn.
- Ensure the drive belt is not cracking, and replace it if it is.
4. Optimize your combine.
The feeder house is just the beginning.
There are a number of other things on your combine you’ll need to address each time you harvest. When it comes to adjustments and settings, it’s never “one then done.”
Before setting out to harvest your grain, go through this checklist:
Adjust the combine header
This adjustment should be made in relation to the height of the wheat for cutting. You want the header set to get the most wheat with the least amount of straw.
Be sure to leave 8 to 12 inches of wheat stubble to retain moisture in the soil.
Be ready to frequently adjust the height of the combine header as the height of the wheat in the field changes. Since header height determines where the wheat is being cut, it’s going to vary with the height of the wheat.
If a lot of straw is being taken in, it means you need to raise the header slightly.
Adjust the reel speed
The reel speed needs to be adjusted relative to the ground speed to avoid losing any wheat in the process.
Going too fast will either cut the wheat poorly or knock it down. Going too slow can cause the wheat to either fall to the ground or not enter the combine correctly, if at all.
Take a look behind the the combine to be sure you’re not losing grain. If you are, you’re probably going too slow relative to your reel speed.
Set the rotor or cylinder speed
In order to minimize damage to seeds, this should be set to the minimum level for good threshing. You’ll need to adjust as the wheat crops change.
This process is where the grain is separated from the straw. Lower speed will do less damage to the wheat.
Set the concave at the widest setting possible
This will help with separating while ensuring no grain is lost through separation.
You need to set the concave clearance wide enough so the grain doesn’t crack.
From there, the combine will automatically separate and take the grain to grain tank.
Adjust the cleaning shoe.
The cleaning shoe consists of the chaffer and cleaning sieve. You want to have each of them set neither too narrow, nor too wide. Your owner’s manual will have manufacturer’s settings.
In general, higher volumes of grain require a wider setting on the sieve.
Set the fan.
If the fan is set too low, the wheat can’t make it to the back of the chaffer for it to drop through. But setting it too high will cause the light wheat to blow right out of the shoe altogether.
The rule of thumb is to start off with the fan speed too high, then lower as needed.
After all of these adjustments are made on your combine, you’ll still need to stay attentive to what’s going on and prepare to make further adjustments.
5. Get the right storage system.
Once you’ve got your grain harvest gathered and waiting to go to market, there’s still more you need to consider. Storing your grain is more than just having a place to put it until it’s ready to sell.
Investing in quality grain storage means you can reduce your operating costs with fewer trucks and personnel at harvest time. Why? Because with on-farm storage, you can start cutting 2-3 weeks earlier, which will reduce harvesting equipment requirements.
Bins are the best storage for your wheat grain harvest. Among other benefits, they provide more safety, increase your yield and give you a better test weight.
Your best bet is to get a bin with these features:
- A fully aerated floor
- In-bin sweep
- Full cage ladder or side-wall stairs
- Fan with generous air flow
You can also take it up a notch and invest in bins with grain level indicators, vertical unloads, temperature and moisture monitoring, in-bin drying systems, and more.
So that’s the nitty gritty on getting higher yields from your grain harvest. And maybe helping it go a little more smoothly too.
If you’ve got other tips for a successful grain harvest, let us know! Feel free to comment below.