Home Ohio Country Journal Minimizing harvest losses

Minimizing harvest losses

As harvest continues to progress across the state, there are two factors that can negatively impact an operation’s overall return per acre. Minimizing harvest losses and maintaining stored grain quality until time of sale can have a major impact on the number of bushels for sale and the price received for those bushels.

Timely harvest is the first management decision that can reduce the amount of yield left in the field. While above average temperatures over the in late September and early October helped close the growing degree gap that we were facing at the beginning of September, we are still about 300 growing degree units behind the 10-year average. This deficit, coupled with the reluctance to spend money on drying a crop with depressed grain prices, may encourage growers to delay corn harvest. However, many of the stresses on Ohio’s corn crop this year have created stalk integrity concerns within many fields. Some additional information, along with tips for scouting for stalk quality issues, can be found here: https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/pestcrop/2017/Issue22/. While out scouting for stalk quality and integrity issues, this is a good opportunity to assess whether there ear molds present in the field.

Timely soybean harvest can reduce harvest losses due to shatter and pod splitting that become more of an issue with repeated wetting and drying of soybean pods. According to Laura Lindsey with Ohio State University Extension, approximately four soybeans per square foot is equal to one bushel per acre in lost yield. To reduce shatter and machine loss in soybeans, harvest fields when grain moisture is around 13%. If harvest is delayed and grain moisture is less than 11%, then shatter can increase. By reducing harvest speeds at lower moisture levels shatter can be reduced, therefore, minimizing harvest loss.

Harvest loss can also be minimized with equipment adjustment. Setting up a machine at the beginning of harvest and not monitoring its performance as harvest conditions change can increase the amount of bushels left in the field. Equipment manufacturers give recommendations to reduce harvest loss, depending on which step in the harvest process is contributing to the loss.

Grain condition in storage is often overlooked until there is a problem, which is usually discovered when grain is moved for sale. Grain quality and condition will never improve after it is put into storage, however, it can quickly decline to the point of dockage or rejection at a point of sale.

Considering the following points when storing grain can help reduce potential grain quality issues:

• Quality of the grain as it remains standing in the field — this year there have been reported cases of fields with ear rot. Take time to walk fields and examine ears before harvest, to assess whether or not a field has problems with ear rot. If ear rot is present, the next step is to determine which type of ear rot is present, as each has different storage and marketability factors to consider before harvest. Most commonly across the state this year is Diplodia ear rot and Aspergillus ear rot, however, there have been reports of Trichoderma and other ear rots scattered around the state. More information on ear rot identification and how it affects storage can be found at: http://www.cornmycotoxins.com/home/

• Preparation of storage facilities before any grain is stored — preparation of storage facilities and handling equipment should include removal of any old grain and foreign matter that may harbor insects or attract rodents. Remove weeds around grain handling and storage facilities.

• Repair any equipment that may lead to an increase in fines or damaged kernels, as these reduce airflow through the grain mass and increase the risk of spoilage.

• Clean storage facilities should be treated with an insecticide to reduce the risk of any infestation from insects.

• Grain moisture — whether grain is left to dry in the field or it’s dried in a drying system, the final moisture content at which grain should be stored depends on the length of time grain will be held before sale and the quality of the grain to be stored. Typically, the longer the grain is stored before ’s sold, the lower the moisture must be before it’s placed in storage. If grain is in poor quality at harvest, for example, if ear rot is present, if there is high mechanical damage, if there is frost damage, then grain should be stored at a lower moisture content to ensure quality does not continue to decline.

• Temperature at which grain is stored — even if grain has been placed in storage at the correct moisture content, improper temperature monitoring and regulation can lead to spoilage. Aeration is used to control grain temperature, so removing restrictions to air movement within the mass of grain will improve aeration and temperature regulation. Using a spreader to evenly distribute grain across the bin, and coring bins to remove fines accumulated in the center will enhance airflow and more evenly regulate temperature across the bin.

• Monitor and check the stored grain condition at regular intervals during storage. During time periods of large temperature swings, like fall and spring, stored grain should be checked at more frequent intervals. Indications of the grains declining quality would be a change in smell at the exhaust fans or at the bin opening, condensation or frost forming on the underside of roof, or crusting of the grain. If the grain is determined to be losing its condition, grain should be removed, dried, and possibly sold before it continues to decline in quality and marketability.

Following these simple steps will help to ensure harvest losses are kept at a minimum and that the grain you are storing remains in the best quality. Finally, always remember to be safe when working in or around stored or flowing grain.