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Harvesting drought-stressed crops

First on the Farm Newsletter

Harvesting drought-stressed crops

Josh Kayser
Ag Banker

This year’s weather has really taken a toll on area producers’ crops. In many cases, it has also taken a mental toll on producers themselves.

It’s easy to want to hit the fast forward button on 2022 and start getting ready for 2023. But with solid commodity prices, it may be worth your time to maximize the crop that you do have.

Before you head to the field, here are some harvest considerations to keep in mind:

Harvesting in a timely manner

Drought-stressed crops can deteriorate quickly, resulting in standability or grain quality problems.

Reduced starches/sugars in the stalks can lead to early death and poor standability. Ear shanks can collapse, resulting in ears falling off.

Do some scouting, and prioritize harvest based on individual field stress levels. This may mean having to take grain at higher moisture and not waiting for it to dry down.

Dry-down will also happen quickly as grain fill and maturity are accelerated due to lack of moisture. You’ll need to be cautious of this as well, since too dry of grain will crack easily and lead to storage issues.

Setting the combine

This may not be as easy as it usually is. Most combines work best with a full cleaning system, and with lower yields, you may need to increase ground speed to keep the machine full.

Seed sizes will vary depending on the test weight, so you may also have to check settings daily and as moisture drops.

Working safely

When you are tired and pushing to finish, you need to be extra cautious so everyone can return home safely.

Be especially wary of fires; the dry conditions will likely increase the chances of fire.

To prevent fires, take time to clear your machine of debris regularly. Also, make sure you have properly charged fire extinguishers ready on each machine.

In some cases, it may be warranted to keep a water tank or tillage tool nearby.

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