The fate of a successful harvest often lies with Mother Nature.
Weather can be a farmer’s greatest asset—or greatest challenge. In years with scorching heat and relentless dry spells (like recent ones), achieving record-breaking performance can feel daunting.
However, with the right strategies and a touch of adaptability, farmers can still thrive in these challenging conditions. Here are AgriGold’s top five tips for harvest success in hot, dry years:
1. Monitor Moisture Levels
For a successful harvest, effective moisture management is the foundation. Harvesting crops when they’re either too wet or too dry can lead to quality and yield issues. Diligently monitoring moisture levels can also help ensure high quality and prevent potential issues like corn shelling and soybean splitting.
To gauge moisture levels accurately, use a moisture meter (often integrated into harvesting equipment). Alternatively, manual crop sampling is possible with a moisture tester. Collect representative samples from various field locations and use the moisture tester for a precise reading.
2. Adjust Harvest Timing
Hot, dry conditions can accelerate crop maturation, so keep an eye on fields and tailor the harvest schedule accordingly. Be prepared to harvest early to avoid yield losses.
To minimize post-harvest complications, aim for recommended moisture levels. For corn, moisture content should be between 23% to 25% at harvest. Soybeans, on the other hand, should be harvested when their moisture levels range from 13% to 15%.
3. Calibrate Equipment
Precise equipment calibration, tailored to the specific conditions and crop maturity, is imperative. Meticulously adjusting combine settings can enhance efficiency and mitigate crop damage. For optimal equipment setup, make sure to adjust:
Header height: Ensure this matches the height of the crop.
Reel speed: Should be set to gently—not aggressively—engage the crop.
Ground speed: Equipment should maintain a consistent pace through the field.
It’s also vital to fine-tune the combine’s settings to match the specific conditions and crop maturity. Pay close attention to rotor or cylinder speed, concave clearance and fan speed. Regularly inspect and maintain the equipment to prevent any breakdowns during harvest.
4. Harvest During Optimal Conditions
Timing is key. Opt to harvest during cooler segments of the day, such as early mornings or late evenings. This choice minimizes soybean shattering and corn kernel damage, while also reducing stress on both equipment and operators amidst scorching heat. This can ultimately optimize overall efficiency.
5. Post-Harvest Handling
Harvest responsibilities extend beyond the field—into handling and storing. Swiftly cooling and drying crops is pivotal to ward off spoilage. To preserve grain quality, equip storage facilities with proper ventilation.
In exceptionally warm, dry weather, exercise caution during corn drying to prevent fire hazards.
The Bottom Line
- Accurate moisture management is vital for a successful harvest. Use moisture meters or testers to get precise readings from field samples to prevent issues like shelling and splitting.
- Hot, dry conditions accelerate crop maturation. Be prepared to start harvesting earlier than usual to prevent yield losses.
- Precise equipment calibration and regular equipment maintenance are key to preventing breakdowns during harvest.
Before the combine hits the fields this year, reach out to your AgriGold agronomist for help addressing crop moisture, machine calibration and harvest timing.