Tips For A Smoother Harvest
By Tim DeKrey*
1. Plant some of your sunflower acreage to an early maturing hybrid to get started sooner on your harvest. It will also give you an opportunity to make sure your equipment is properly maintained and adjusted prior to harvesting the main portion of your crop.
2. Scout your fields as the crop is maturing, checking for diseases like Phomopsis and Sclerotinia; also, to determine whether desiccation may be warranted to speed drydown for earlier harvest on fields that may have disease or other issues. Those fields should be harvested first. If you don’t have the time to scout, consider hiring a qualified person to do it for you.
3. As part of the scouting process, do yield estimates. The National Sunflower Association has worksheets and a formula to assist with developing yield estimates that are quite accurate, if you pull enough samples. This can help you line up adequate storage and aeration if temporary storage is needed.
4. If storing sunflower seeds on your farm, make sure your bins are ready: fans operational, heaters and stirring equipment in good operating condition, etc. Even new equipment can have issues, as we found out the hard way on a one-year-old bin we used for sunflower. Also, rodents can create problems with buried service wires to bins and by chewing up sensors in drying equipment.
5. Clean all harvesting equipment thoroughly — especially if you’re producing in-shell or hulling-type ’flowers. There can be literally bushels of corn or soybeans left behind if you still have uncleaned combine hoppers, unswept hoppers on trailers, unclean swing augers, etc. Processors don’t like surprises.
6. Once the small grain harvest is over, examine your sunflower head to at least remind yourself of any maintenance issues carrying over from the previous year’s harvest season.
7. Start harvest with a really clean combine — and keep it clean to help avoid fire issues. There may be some shielding that provides areas for dust and trash to accumulate that could be removed without affecting combine performance. (But, don’t compromise safety!)
8. If you have a field with a weed problem for whatever reason, consider screening the sunflower seeds as they go into storage. Doing so may slow you down, but it also can prevent storage problems due to weed seeds and wet plant materials.
* Tim DeKrey farms near Steele, N.D. He is a current director and past president of the National Sunflower Assn.
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