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Harvesting Wheat

 

Wheat Harvest Tips

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 quickly reach 20% moisture after it matures.
  • Photo of 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:
    • Cutter bar 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.
  • Photo of combine harvesting wheat.

Check Combine Settings

Each time conditions or varieties change, recheck the settings on the combine.

  • Air flow across the sieves is 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 one 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.
  • Photo of 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 head scab fungus cause these grain quality issues.
  • Fields severely infected with head scab may require increased fan speeds to remove light, shriveled, infected kernels.
  • Photo of 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 cutter bar 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.

  • 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 cutter bar and far enough down to lay the head on the platform.
  • The reel should turn slightly faster than ground speed.

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 (2.1 to 2.7 m); 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 ºF (60 ºC) or less.
  • For seed production, dry wheat at 110 ºF (43 ºC) or less.
  • For long-term storage, dry wheat to 12.5% moisture

Authors: Nick Monnig, Field Agronomist and Scott Eversgerd, Field Agronomist

January 2019

 

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The foregoing is provided for informational use only. Please contact your Pioneer sales professional for information and suggestions specific to your operation. Product performance is variable and depends on many factors such as moisture and heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. Individual results may vary.

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1464A368-7A62-C454-1E2D-10EFA628F76C