PREPARATIONS for the highlight of the arable year and how to avoid mid-campaign problems
THINK CULTIVATIONS before harvest begins, advises The Arable Group mechanisation consultant John Bailey.
“At this stage, we don‘t know whether it will be dry or wet at harvest.
“But it‘s important to anticipate the issues so cultivations can be completed smoothly.”
In particular, think about stubble height and straw disposal, Mr Bailey advises.
“Growers who have gone to true min-till with lightweight machinery don‘t want too much stubble and root ball left after combining.”
Both cause drill blockages and delays, as well as affecting crop establishment.
For these growers he suggests a maximum 5-7.5cm (2-3in) stubble length.
“And min-till cultivations must be rolled firmly afterwards to ‘anchor‘ the trash.”
Those who plan to plough or use really heavy discs can accept longer stubble. “Up to 8in is fine, as they can cope with it.”
Fields should be assessed individually. “There are other things which will have a bearing on your cultivations plan.
“These include depth of tramlines, weed populations and soil compaction.
“It‘s very unlikely that the same approach can be adopted on every field. And conditions could be very different to last year‘s.”
Rapid expansion in farm size has not been matched by a corresponding increase in grain storage and drying capability, warns Mr Bailey.
“People are farming much larger areas than they were just five years ago.
“But many don‘t have the extra drying and storage that they need for marketing flexibility,” he says.
For this reason, low volume ventilation is essential. “It helps with wet grain, as well as with hot, dry grain.
“Very low volumes of air, about 5% of that for normal drying, help to stop problems developing.”
Hot grain must be cooled quickly to prevent insects breeding – aim to get it down to 15°C within 30 days.
“Wet grain can be kept in good condition by low volume ventilation before drying.
“Low volume ventilation can be done with laterals in the floor or by small above-ground laterals, pedestals or spears. It is really crucial at such a busy time.”
Cleaning grain stores thoroughly is fundamental, says Mr Bailey.
“There are reminders about this every year and growers should check which chemicals are cleared for use in a store.
“When cleaning, take up the laterals where necessary and don‘t forget about inside the tunnel. Give grain the best chance by putting it into a spotless store.”
Whether you travel alongside the combine or unload on headlands, have trailers with twice the capacity of the combine tank, urges Mr Bailey.
“Combine augers unload incredibly fast now, so it makes sense to be able to fully empty the combine tank twice into one trailer. For
larger combines, this means 14t trailer payloads.”
Pay attention to the trailers‘ tyre sizes and inflation pressures, especially where they may be travelling on fields that will be wet.
“Covers are useful later in the season, when you might be hauling grain out of season on public roads.”
Trailers are a sound investment and still relatively cheap compared with other machinery, he notes.
Be sensible about personal exposure to dust, especially when operating a continuous flow drier with elevators, a cleaner and conveyors.
“Take the necessary precautions with dust. It‘s a health hazard, so comply with COSHH requirements, even if you do have a backlog of wet grain and are under pressure.”
Look in the next issue of Farmers Weekly for the latest Baseline Advice.