Higher-Moisture Harvest Benefits
Not every sunflower producer is equipped with high-temperature drying equipment and/or bins set up for natural air drying. For those who are, however, harvesting ’flowers in the low to mid-’teens can make sense — and dollars — for these reasons:
• Less Exposure to Pests & Inclement Weather — The sooner the mature seeds are harvested, the less yield lost to birds, windstorms, rain, snowstorms or late-season insect- or disease-induced lodging.
• Harvest Speed — The combine’s forward speed can be faster (by 0.5 mph or more) when harvesting seeds above 10 or 11 percent moisture, as shattering at the header will not be nearly as prevalent as when combining at seven or eight percent or lower.
• Less Overall Shattering — Along with minimizing seed shatter loss while combining, there’ll be less shatter loss from heads bumping against each other prior to harvest.
• Ease of Drying — Drying damp seeds will be faster and cheaper while temperatures are still warm and humidity low, as compared to late-autumn drying conditions.
• Lower Foreign Matter — With many of today’s hybrids, plant heads and foliage may still be yellow or pale green even though the seeds are fully mature and dry enough to harvest. Damp heads will not break up during threshing nearly as much as heads containing seed with moistures below seven or eight percent.
Foreign matter will be lowest when seeds can be threshed from sunflower heads emerging from the combine in one piece. Heads leaving the combine in more than two pieces indicate (1) the crop is exceptionally dry or (2) combine adjustment is necessary.
• Reduced Combine Fire Risk — Damper sunflower seeds with low foreign material greatly reduce static cling of fines, resulting in less material buildup on the combine and lowered risk of fire. — Don Lilleboe
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