GRAIN growers who face the prospect of harvesting short or patchy crops this year could consider machinery modifications and alternative options to optimise paddock potential.
Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) development officer Glen Riethmuller said harvest losses equated to profit losses, as well as next year’s weeds.
Mr Riethmuller said some simple machinery preparations before harvest could make a meaningful difference to crop profitability in paddocks with short crops.
“The key to maximising harvested grain is to ensure a quick, clean cut to pick up and clear low cut material,” he said.
“It’s important the knives are sharp and the knife section hold-down clips are adjusted so the knife cuts on the bottom of the knife guard.
“Growers who have new machinery should also make sure the knife section is adjusted correctly, before they commence harvesting.”
Many growers have found attaching rigid, black plastic to the finger tine reel is an easy, cost effective option to help feed cut material into the front of the header to gather as much of the crop as possible.
“One option is to cut black Corflute to size and zip tie it to the reel so it just sweeps the top of the knife guard,” Mr Riethmuller said.
“It is important the plastic ribs run down the reel fingers for added strength and to place it on every second section going around the reel, to prevent the harvester driver’s eyes from following the motion, resulting in headaches or fatigue.
“Another option is to use three-millimetre thick black high density polyethylene, or HDPE sheets, commonly used in ute trays, which is also easy to drill and has better wear resistance.
“For harvesting at night, it’s advisable the material is black, so it prevents lights reflecting into the driver’s vision.”
Other modifications include installing an air reel to blow short material clear of the knife, back into the table auger or belt.
“This helps with even feeding for maximum grain separation,” Mr Riethmuller said.
“Commercial air reels, made from lightweight aluminium, can be purchased and fitted to the front of existing tine reels for fronts of sizes 30 to 45 feet.
“Another cost-effective option is to attach a Vibra-mat on tin fronts to improve the evenness of feeding, which helps threshing and cleaning.”
Threshing patchy crops could also be difficult this year, particularly canola.
“There’s a risk the wind from the cleaning sieves could throw grain out or result in dirty grain, when plant material is fed through unevenly and the flow is low,” Mr Riethmuller said.
More detail on harvesting patchy, short crops is available on the department’s Season 2019 webpage found at agric.wa.gov.au, along with a other information to assist landholders navigate the months ahead.