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Wheat Harvest Tips


Wheat Harvest Tips

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Carefully Time Harvest

  • Monitor field closely for harvest readiness.
    • Physiological maturity occurs at about 40% moisture.
    • Wheat may dry 2.5% per day between 20% and 40% moisture.
    • The crop can very quickly reach 20% moisture after it matures.
Wheat field
  • Always harvest between 20% and 14% moisture.
    • Above 20% moisture:
      • Harvest damage to the kernels is more likely.
      • Grain can be harder to store.
      • Test weights can be lower.
    • Below 14% moisture:
      • Cutterbar losses can increase.
      • Test weights may decline each time the crop gets wet from dew or rain.
      • Lodging may increase.
      • Weeds may grow tall enough to interfere with harvest.
  • Consider harvesting at 18% to 20% moisture and artificially drying the grain.
    • Allows earlier double-crop planting.
    • Helps achieve maximum wheat and double-crop soybean yields.
    • Helps maintain grain quality.
Wheat harvest

Check Combine Settings

  • Each time conditions change or varieties change, recheck the settings on the combine.
    • Air flow across the sieves is very critical when trying to get a good clean sample.
    • The lighter the wheat, the less air needs to be pushed through the sieves.
    • Too much air will result in losses out the back of the machine.
  • Check behind the combine for grain loss.
    • Remember, about 17 to 18 kernels per square foot equals approximately 1 bushel per acre.
    • Making a few minor adjustments can reduce harvest loss. The operator’s manual will give you step-by-step instructions.
    • Change only one setting at a time, and then check to see what effect that change made.
Wheat harvest

Make Additional Combine Adjustments

  • Fields infected with head scab may require additional combine adjustments to remove infected seed.
    • Head scab typically decreases test weight and reduces grain quality.
    • Mycotoxins produced by the scab fungus cause these grain quality issues.
    • Fields severely infected with head scab may require increased fan speeds to remove light, shriveled, infected kernels.
Wheat spikes with symptoms of Fusarium head blight (head scab)

Wheat spikes with symptoms of Fusarium head blight (head scab).

  • When harvesting severely lodged wheat:
    • Try harvesting in different directions to find the angle at which the header best picks up the wheat.
    • Adjust the reel slightly ahead of the cutterbar and far enough down to lay the head on the platform.
    • The reel should turn slightly faster than ground speed.
  • Maintain soil moisture for double-crop soybeans.
    • Leave 8 to 12 inches of wheat stubble in the field to help maintain soil moisture.
    • Utilize no-till whenever possible.
  • Manage wheat residue.
    • Wheat straw should be baled or spread uniformly with the combine.
    • Leaving heavy amounts of residue on the ground may result in poor seed/soil contact during soybean planting.

Drying and Storing Wheat

  • Air drying
    • Air drying wheat in storage will result in higher test weight and quality.
    • When bin-drying wheat, the bin should only be filled to a depth of about 7 to 9 feet (any deeper and air flow will not be adequate).
    • Make sure the initial layer is dry before filling the remaining space.
    • Wheat provides more resistance to air flow than corn, making it a tough crop to dry in a bin situation.
  • Continuous-flow dryers
    • Continuous-flow dryers handle wet wheat very well, as they are drying only the portion in the dryer.
  • Drying temperatures and optimum grain moisture
    • For commercial mill quality, dry wheat at temperatures of 140 F or less.

For seed production, dry wheat at 110 F or less. For long-term storage, dry wheat to 12.5% moisture.