16 August 2002

Wheat crop needs careful handling

STRAW, grain and soil all need extra care as wheat harvesting gets back on track after the mid-harvest monsoon, say experts.

Milling crops should take priority where Hagbergs have held. But ADAS Beds-based agronomist David Parish urges growers to be patient and not to panic.

"It may be tempting to start combining at silly moistures. But it would be daft to go in at 26-28%. Drying costs would wipe out any potential premium."

Big combines and heavy grain trailers on soggy fields also threaten soil structure. Unload on headlands or keep trailers to tramlines to cut the risk, he advises.

"Compaction could ruin the scope for minimum tillage on land coming into rape, so it may be best to leave crops for a day or two to allow the surface to dry more. Crops on land to be ploughed could be tackled first."

One wet weather bonus may be that straw is now as ripe as grain, so limiting green straw combine hold-ups, he adds.

Dirty-looking ears should not cause too much concern, as most disease is sooty mould on feed wheat, says Suffolk-based Mark Grubb of First Agronomy. Most milling crops had an ear wash and are so far remaining reasonably clean.

With an oilseed rape establishment bottleneck now on the cards growers may need to cancel baling. "Now is probably the time to bite the bullet and chop straw so seed-beds can be prepared on time."

Grain needs to be down to 20-21% for an on-floor drying, notes Essex-based ADAS mechanisation adviser John Bailey. "Grain at 17-18% can be held 10-12ft deep for drying, but above 20% it must be no more than six feet deep. When weather improves it is important dry grain is not put on top of wet." &#42