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How Should You Deal With a Wet Harvest?

Here are some suggestions for dealing with higher than usual moisture.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

October 23, 2009

3 Min Read

Suppose you're back in the field harvesting today, October 23. You've got a long way to go, with soybeans and corn. The corn is still at high moisture, and ear molds and stalk rots are ramping up. Soils are anywhere from saturated to still too wet for tillage. What will you do differently since it's Oct 23 and not Sept 23?

That question was posed to farmers recently. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Consider combining soybeans at higher moisture than you normally would, say 15 to 16%, and putting them in a bin with air. Dry them with air before moving them to another bin or selling them. Requirement would be a bin with sufficient air. The drawback might be having an empty bin that you can spare if you're wanting to harvest corn at the same time.

  • Start corn harvest at higher moistures than normal. Most of you have likely already accepted this notion. Losses for letting corn set in the field can mount quickly, especially since ear molds and stalk rot reports are mounting in various parts of the state.

  • Be careful where you run grain carts. If you've got a 1,000 bushel grain cart, it's a lot of weight on perhaps one axle. That weight can create soil compaction deep within the soil. You'll have to weight the benefits of unloading on the go to speed up harvest vs. creating soil compaction that could affect crops for the next two years, maybe longer. It's well documented that winter feeze-and-thaw cycles, despite the common perception, will not remove the effects of soil compaction in one year, if at all.

  • Rethink normal tillage plans. Even chiseling wet fields and relying on freeze and thaw could be a costly error. As noted, the potential helpful benefits of freeze and thaw are highly overrated, according to Gary Steinhardt, a Purdue University Extension soils specialist. At some point, he notes, it may come down to harvesting anyway to get the crop out, as a cost of doing business, but tilling and creating compaction just to get a field tilled may be a different proposition. Is that a cost of doing business that you absolutely must incur?

  • Take frequent harvest breaks. No doubt you're going to work longer hours than if you could have started harvest earlier. But make rest breaks and stops for water or a snack more frequent. Some groups, like the West Central Young Farmers in Greene County, prepare snack packs, and call them safety packs. If you deliver grain to the Gavilon Peavey elevator in Sullivan County, odds are you'll be invited to take one of these packs. The whole idea is to help you relax and stay refreshed so the odds of accidents diminish.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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