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Expert shares harvest tips for flood-damaged fields

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- After this year's record rainfall and flooding across parts of the Midwest, farmers should scout their fields carefully and be aware of any conditions that could damage crops during harvest, a Purdue Extension grain storage expert advises.

"As we approach harvest, it will be important to prepare adequately so that we prevent deterioration of the portions of crops we are able to harvest," said Klein Ileleji, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Crop development has been delayed in some flooded areas. It could be necessary to adjust the speed of the combine and height of the cutter bar to account for differences in plant growth, Ileleji said.

Before harvesting, farmers should look for differences in cob size and the number of kernels per cob, as well as variability in the maturity of bean plants, he said.

"That way the operator will know in advance where equipment adjustments will be necessary during cutting," Ileleji said.

It's also important to check the moisture level of the soil. Some areas in a field might be significantly wetter than others.

Once the maturity level and moisture content are known, farmers should consult equipment dealers, manufacturers or machine manuals to find out how to set machines for the different conditions they might encounter in their fields, Ileleji said.

Other harvest tips:

• Clean all machinery including combines, dryers, bins, augers, elevator legs and ladder rungs. Failure to do so could cause restricted airflow in bins and dryers, provide a breeding ground for insects or cause other safety issues. Ileleji recommended treating bins in advance with an approved empty-bin insecticide, or using heat - a minimum of 122 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-4 hours - to get rid of any pests.

• Check equipment to see if repairs or replacement parts are needed and perform any necessary service. Ileleji said farmers should not make repairs to gas lines or electrical equipment and wiring if they are not licensed to do so. Also, it is important to have enough fuel available to keep the machinery running as needed.

• Calibrate and test moisture meters and interior bin sensors to ensure that they are working. Ileleji also recommended checking moisture readings of one sample of grain against the reading of that same sample at the elevator where the grain will be delivered so there is no discrepancy.

Ileleji said planning and preparing correctly is the least expensive way to address potential harvest issues.

"The harvest months are always busy, but planning ahead will definitely help ease some of the burden and put you in a better position for successfully harvesting your corn and soybeans," he said.